All posts by Jenn Beiswenger

About Jenn Beiswenger

I'm generally a pretty content person, always growing and loving the journey most of the time. My passion was babies for so long, now I'm recalibrating to figure out what else I want to do with my life. I enjoy preparing healthy food for my family, creating Zentangle-inspired artwork, traveling, learning about the Lord's amazing kingdom, connecting with & helping others. My husband, 10-year-old son and I live in Sydney, Australia, where we happily serve the Hurstville New Church congregation. I'm really grateful for the modern technology which helps me stay connected with family & friends overseas!

Blessings In Disguise

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It enables us to see and understand so much more about our lives than we might otherwise! It is through hindsight – perhaps much further down the road, but eventually – that we can appreciate that the ‘curses’ in our lives really did have resulting good come out of them. The Lord teaches us that He’s got our backs: His Providence, although invisible to our eyes, surrounds everything we do in order to protect us from ourselves, to help us through our lives and onward to heaven. 

We are allowed to see Divine Providence from behind but not face to face, and when we are in a spiritual state, not in a materialistic state. Seeing Divine Providence from behind but not face to face is seeing it after the fact but not before; and seeing it when we are in a spiritual state and not in a materialistic state is seeing it from heaven and not from this world. Everyone who accepts inflow from heaven and recognizes Divine Providence (and especially people who have become spiritual by virtue of their reformation), on seeing events in their amazing kind of sequence, virtually sees Providence from a deep recognition and confesses it. Such people do not want to see it face to face, that is, before things happen, because they are afraid their own volition would interfere with some element of its orderly sequence. (Divine Providence 187.4)

I offer three examples from my own life to demonstrate this phenomenon. The first is my bicycle accident: I fell from my bike at the age of 20, broke my kneecap, and although it ‘messed up’ my plans for the coming year, two huge side-effects were courting the man who is now my husband and confirming my faith in the New Church.

Fast-forward twenty years to the second incident which involved moving our son from one primary school to another: we loved his first Montessori school, but in the course of time the administration underwent major changes and we were compelled to pull him out, even though he only had another 18 months of primary schooling left before he’d have to change schools again. We considered our options and decided to move him to another Montessori school. Despite the angst my husband and I felt at the time, and the undoubtable apprehension and fear our son experienced, he quickly acclimated to his new environment, made two great friends and had most of his class later join him at his out-of-area high school – where he previously would have known no-one.

My third example is more of an ongoing one, something which began before the birth of our son and still affects us to this day: infertility. I’d always thought we’d have a gaggle of kids, but, despite our best efforts, we don’t. This affected me deeply, for many years – it can still elicit a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. In retrospect, though, we can appreciate all the more that we are blessed to have the one child we have, we are able to travel so much more and with so much more logistical ease than we would have otherwise, and we’ve learned to relax our own planning and follow the Lord a little more willingly – we’re fond of saying, ‘we make plans and God laughs’.

Challenges are just part and parcel of life: they can really sting at the time, and they can keep stinging for a long time after they happen. As the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus wisely said, “It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.” We will all encounter traumas and hard times; believing that these are blessings in disguise and trusting that it will all work out in the end will help us endure them, and ease our mental burden.

Peace has in it confidence in the Lord, that He directs all things, and provides all things, and that He leads to a good end. When a man is in this faith, he is in peace, for he then fears nothing, and no solicitude about things to come disquiets him. (Arcana Coelestia 8455)

Patience Is a Virtue

“Patience is a virtue,
Virtue is a grace;
Grace is a little girl
Who wouldn’t wash her face!”

This is a nursery rhyme my mom used to encourage patience in me as a child – and which I have the privilege of reciting to my own child as well. In trying to find the source of this rhyme, it quickly became clear that there is no single origin. The introductory line can be traced back to The Canterbury Tales in the 14th century; however, it’s possible that it actually dates back as far as the 3rd or 4th century A.D.

Whatever the case, the idea that ‘patience is a virtue’ has been around for a while, and with good reason. I appreciated the explanation given by yourdictionary.com: “Part of the reason this has been a long-standing truth throughout history is because patience often goes against our instincts. It’s something everyone struggles with, including our earliest ancestors.  The good news is, patience is a skill that can be learned over time. The more we exercise patience, the less likely we are to become agitated when forced to wait for something. Mastering this virtue will make for a happier life. That’s certainly one of the reasons why it’s so famously touted by writers and philosophers alike.”

The virtue of patience came to my mind a couple of months ago, after the driver of the car-carrier truck behind me ever-so-politely came to my car, in stopped traffic, knocked on my window and gently requested that I not dart in front of him as I had done. He said that if I’d signalled my desire to change lanes and waited a little while, he’d have let me in. Fair enough.

Right after that incident, as the Christian radio station that I usually enjoy hosted its week-long semi-annual fund drive (which meant that I was hearing more pleas for money than pleasant music), I found myself station-surfing to find an alternative. I landed on a member-supported station playing an enjoyable tune. After that, though, they aired a long track of guitar and pan flute instrumental melody. This is not my normal choice of music. I usually prefer songs with meaningful words, often with a quicker beat. On that day, however, already mindful of cultivating more patience in myself, I chose to stay on that station, sit with it, and enjoy it for its slower pace and calmness. I still don’t particularly enjoy that style of music, but it was an interesting experience to let that song be, to just be patient and not switch stations again right away.

Another reason to be patient on Australian roads (where I live) is the preponderance of speed cameras. While I understand the value of such devices in calming particularly violent or dangerous stretches of road, they are mostly revenue-raisers in this country. The law does not allow for much lenience either: drive at a speed beyond a few kilometres per hour over the speed limit will elicit a ticket and hefty fine. Although I prefer to drive freely, still responsibly, but without checking my speedometer every few hundred metres, a fear of fines lightens my lead foot somewhat.

Those situations, combined with noticing some other instances of unnecessary lane-changing in relatively heavy traffic just to get a car length or two ahead, have got me thinking more and more about how driving, unless explicitly in a race, isn’t actually a race! Arriving somewhere on time is important, but, under normal circumstances, not critical. Getting my child to school on time is a good habit to be sure, but if we happen to be a little late sometimes, so what? It won’t be the end of the world: I’ll write an explanatory note, and we’ll each be on our ways.

I have the propensity to want to be exactly on time, which is a very narrow window of time, which means I’m always prone to being a teeny bit late. Somewhere along the way, I apparently decided that being early was not cool! In light of my new awareness of patience, however, I have a new appreciation for being early, and being patient until the right time to enter the building, or join the party, or whatever the scenario. It is disrespectful of me to make someone else wait; I just need to suck it up.

Wanting to bring the Lord into the conversation, I was curious to see what the He has to say about such matters. I came upon a couple of instances from His Word, including explanations thereof in the Writings for the New Church:

“The seed that is in the good ground, these are they who in a simple and good heart, hear the word, hold it fast, and bear fruit in patience.” (Luke 8:15)

The Heavenly Doctrines describe that “’to bring forth fruit in patience’ signifies to do truths and goods even when living amid falsities and evils, that is, among those who are in falsities and evils.” (Apocalypse Explained 813:4)

“If anyone shall lead into captivity he shall go into captivity; if anyone shall kill with the sword he must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” (Revelation 13:10)

Again, in the Heavenly Doctrines we read that “’the patience of the saints’ signifies the temptation of the faithful, or of those who are made spiritual by the Lord, because ‘patience’ signifies spiritual patience, which is patience in sustaining temptations; and those have that patience who fight in themselves against the falsities that are contained in the dogma of faith alone and that adhere to it; for that faith is confirmed by reasonings from the natural man and from the Word wrongly applied and thus falsified. The temptations that such sustain when they fight against falsities are meant by ‘patience.’” (Apocalypse Explained 813:2)

I am really glad to have found these passages, and they’re shedding a new light on the concept and importance of cultivating patience! Learning patience in this world is useful for a variety of worldly reasons, such as for health and safety (and for the law and personal finances, i.e. not breaking the law and not going broke on account of speeding tickets!), and now we can see the next, spiritual dimension of this virtue. It’s about facing temptation, which, superficially, includes resisting the urge to zoom ahead or cut someone off, automotively or otherwise, but which, on a deeper level, extends into rationalising things from our natural minds and from the Word and applying them incorrectly to life matters. The Lord urges us to practice patience, to sustain temptation, and promises that, as a result, we will be implanted with truths and be made spiritual, as we trust in Him and work to do goods and truths even amid the falsities and evils in this world around us.

These sound like reasons enough to me!

God Doesn’t Care

What?! That’s right, I said it: God doesn’t care.

I had this “A-ha!” moment while I was struggling with some external things in my life – namely, screen time for my eleven-year-old and healthy eating habits for myself and my family. In that moment I realised that God doesn’t care what we eat, how much we eat, or when we eat it. He doesn’t care how much time we spend in front of the screen or when we do it. He doesn’t care what we wear, what kind of car we drive, or any other of a litany of superficial aspects.

I struggle with parenting my child around screen time, feeling that he ought to spend the ‘right’ (not too much) amount of time on devices, at the ‘right’ (not before 7am nor after dinner) times. I struggle with a preoccupation with food, feeling that I ought to eat the ‘right’ (healthy, organic) foods in the ‘right’ (not too much) amounts, at the ‘right’ (not between meals nor after dinner) times, to the point that – my husband and I joke – I’m more likely to die of an illness induced by my toxic obsessing than of malnutrition! Continue reading God Doesn’t Care

Front Row or Back Seat?

Do you ever compare yourself to others? Presuming that you’re human, and that it is a human tendency to do so, you presumably have. Unfortunately it seems to be a natural weakness, a tendency we’re all inclined toward, until we overcome it.

I recently heard the story of one of my peers, recounting his life since we were in school together in eighth grade through to our mid-40s. He told of amazing accomplishments, helping people on small and large scales, locally and around the world. I was impressed! Inspired! Discouraged. After my initial reaction of genuine awe and appreciation, my hells latched onto that fleck of comparison, and I felt myself holding his marvellous good deeds on a pedestal and my puny, pathetic life in the gutter.

Once I’d processed those thoughts for a while, I managed to take a step back in an attempt to view our lives more objectively. For one thing, I only heard the good parts from my friend – he was giving a public inspirational talk, so of course he focussed on the inspirational parts. I don’t know what his home life is like, for example; he may be doing all this good stuff at the expense of the people closest to him. For another, it’s not my business to care how much more useful someone else is: I need to concern myself with myself, with my own usefulness and regeneration. If someone inspires me to be more useful than I was, great! But I’m not meant to judge others, I’m meant to evaluate whether I’m doing the best I can do. And anyway, life isn’t a contest or a race: it’s up to each of us to live our own lives according to the principles we hold dear. Continue reading Front Row or Back Seat?