Patience and Flying Wrenches (Part 2)

If you were able to read Part 1 of this saga, you’ll know that God has got this running theme for me in the last year of learning patience, waiting on His perfect timing. This first test I spent more of it on the sidelines being a support to my husband, so I think I did much better than if it had been my own personal test. We did have an overlap though, so my story starts about halfway through the last one.

I’ve had this life of mine planned out for a while now. Most had gone according to planned until God started to shake things up and show me who is really in control. The birth of a child will do that to you. Especially when that birth is nothing like you expect. So, somehow in the last three years I thought that I had learned this lesson of giving up control and then decided to take a bit of it back. The “planning” for baby number 2 began and I was sure it would work out perfectly. Just as a warning you all, I’m kind of ridiculous. You see, I have my reasons for wanting things the way I do.

Summertime is crazy for our family with multiple birthdays every weekend and then weddings and anniversaries and vacations, I just couldn’t possibly have a baby then. And winter is a no go as well. Holidays and a few more birthdays, I just didn’t want our little one being thrown into that mix. I got my Spring baby first time around so now for an Autumn babe. Calculating it out meant we needed to get pregnant in the winter for everything to go as planned. It took a month or two to get pregnant with baby girl so we “stopped trying not to get pregnant” (sounds much better than “trying to get pregnant”) towards the end of the year. Note: we weren’t super set on this with the prospect of moving our family for a new job in the future but still open to the possibility. December came and went. January we thought it might happen and so did my mom apparently because when my brother announced that a new grandbaby was coming, she thought it was me and not my dear sister-in-law. Excited to be an Auntie finally and for my brother and sister-in-law to have their first, I was content not being the one pregnant. I kept counting the months knowing that our chance of an Autumn baby was dwindling I was getting a little discouraged, but knew that it couldn’t possibly be much longer. Month by month a negative test and those wonderful hormones that  accompany it turned me into a big baby. Oh, the tears and frustration.

Spring was here and the new job possibility for my husband was in front of us. He quit without a solid offer but at least the ability to freelance. During this time we were also in our 4th month of 7: giving away 7 things from our home everyday for a month. (Sorry, I didn’t finish that blog series, I’ll have to pick it up again another time) I and a sweet friend of mine, who had been through much more than I had, decided we should have a play date and donuts to commiserate the fact that neither of us were pregnant. She mentioned how crazy we were for giving away things while my husband was not yet working full time. Somehow I could trust God’s provision through all that but didn’t believe He knew what He was doing when it came to my fertility.

Not worrying and being grateful is something I learned in the anxiety I had after my daughter was born so I attempted to put this into practice. I told God that yes, I had this all figured out, I see what He was trying to teach me. I needed to be content and grateful for all I have. I needed to thank Him for my amazing husband and beautiful daughter and our lovely home and life that He had already blessed me with. Yada, yada, yada. Gotcha, thanks God, learned my lesson, now give me my baby.

To this day I cannot remember what passage it was that I was reading in my Bible app, but I was sitting on my bed trying to glean something from the Word that would give me hope and something to hold onto after another month of being ever so very NOT pregnant. I have a feeling He will use this passage again in my life, so He didn’t want me to get hung up on the words of it, but His Word spoke loud and clear. I had told Him I would be content with what I had and He said, “No, that is not enough.” It’s one thing to be content when you are comfortable, when you have such wonderful things in life, but what if they all went away? What if something happened to my family? What if I could no longer afford our home? What if everything I held dear was gone? What if all I had was Jesus? The salvation that He brings, redeeming me from my sin and bringing me into this new life with Him, what if it was the only hope I had? Would I be content then? Que another tantrum from this big baby over here. I cried. I threw my phone. I knew He was right, I don’t deserve any of this, let alone another huge blessing of a child to care for. He’s always got to go that extra step in trying to refine me. Just when I think I’ve got it all figured out another wrench comes flying in. I repented of my pride, I surrendered my situation to Him, I vowed that things would be different. I would trust in His perfect timing and be content not with what I had, but content in knowing that I have all I need in Jesus alone.

After drying my tears and putting on my big girl panties, I was ready to face another month. I was filled with peace, almost looking forward to another negative test so that I could show my Heavenly Father how much I had grown up. Then this happened:

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Part 3: coming soon

Patience and Flying Wrenches (Part 1)

It’s been nearly a year since I last wrote. There has been plenty to write, I just have not taken the time to put it into words. I need to process these things and I pray you would allow me to do it here. So much has changed in our lives and yet so much has remained the same. One constant theme I can see God working on is patience. Maybe I prayed this prayer for myself. Maybe someone prayed it for me. Or maybe God just decided it was time to give me this test since I would never want to ask for it myself. I’ve always heard that it is dangerous to ask for patience because the way you learn it is by being given the opportunity to be patient.

When it comes to patience I can do just fine up to a certain point. I can handle traffic and hitting all the red lights. I’m usually pretty good with a toddler who wants to pick every. single. dandelion. when we are on a walk. But then there comes bigger things, like jobs and pregnancy and due dates that seem to throw me for a loop.

This started late in the year 2013 with a prompting that God may have another job in store for my husband. This was not the first time in the 12 years he had worked at his last job that he considered a career change, but it was different this time around. Never did I have peace in the idea of him leaving his job for something else, until now. He was out of town when the idea came to him and he didn’t want to flippantly talk to me about it over the phone so he waited until he got home. This was no ordinary, “I’m thinking of applying for another job.” It would mean an upheaval of our family to another state away from family and friends into a very different career. The funny thing is I just said, “Okay.” And we started talking about what that would mean and how it would work and both of us were excited about the idea of turning our lives upside down and trying something new (not something these perfect little planners are usually up for). The peace that we had starting this endeavor was unreal. Then began the applications and interviews and more applications and more interviews and each time we prayed and saught God’s will and trusted that He would place us exactly where He wanted us. If it had just continued on this way even for the 6 months or so that it took, that would have been just fine, but then the wrenches showed up.

A few weeks into this process my husband’s boss left his position which created a void that he now needed to fill. Still sure that God had something else out there for us we continued to pray and apply, but there was the added weight of carrying his department that seemed to halt the process. I mentioned some unknowingly prophetic words during this time to my husband, something to the effect of, “God is not going to give you a new job until He has put someone in place to take care of your department.” It’s almost comical now how this played out and incredibly divine at the same time. This brought us into the new year and with each application and prayer and interview we really tired to remain surrendered to God’s will. A bunch more wrenches came whirrling through during the next few months and I did all I could to support my husband praying over him and our situation, encouraging him to finish strong and lead with integrity. While tensions were high with an added responsibility he never intended to acquire, 6 months of applying for jobs was makings for some weary fingers and hearts.

Then the day came, a new department head had been hired (praise God!). This was great news but also brought stress to an all time high. We didn’t think it would be fair to get on board with a new boss only to jump ship when a job opportunity came along. That evening my husband applied for a random job (as he did many nights during these last months) and they responded right away wanting an interview that next morning.

We prayed prayed prayed that night, giving it up to God knowing that His plan was bigger than ours.  The peace that surrounded us that night was wonderful. We didn’t know what to expect, we didn’t know how many more weeks or months he would still be at this job, but we knew that God was in control and does everything in His perfect timing. (If only I could hold onto that for future reference) The interview went swimmingly and they wanted my husband to start freelancing as soon as possible with the intention of a full time position in the next few months. In 6 months time after hundreds of applications this was the very first job offer (which I think I kind of hard to believe because I know how awesome my husband is). The very same day that God had placed someone else to lead this department, hours before he was to meet with this new department head, God answered our months and months of prayers in His absolute perfect timing. He was able to resign his position and start making plans for the future.

It was a long road, much longer than we would have desired. But we learned strength and patience and how to encourage each other and pray through things together. It was intense but extremely well worth it to hold on tight to God together and have Him stretch our faith. His provision is just perfect and His goodness is immeasurable.

If only this lesson had been well learned when the tables turned and it was my desire that was waiting to be fulfilled. That story will be coming up next.

The 7 Experiment: Clothing

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I talked a bit in my last post about this 7 experiment. If you haven’t heard about it, go check out Jen Hatmaker’s book 7. Great stuff. We have now completed 2 months based on this book. The first month was on Food. It was rough, but very eye opening. Next up was clothing. Seven articles of clothing for four weeks. Sounds kind of crazy, but I’m always up for a challenge. Being a stay-at-home-mom, this really was quite simple. The only person who sees me everyday is a two year old and she couldn’t care less what I am wearing as long as I keep her fed and clean, oh, and dance with her. My husband had it easy since he regularly just wears a T-shirt and jeans. Me, on the other hand, I like color and pattern and variety. So instead of trying to pick out the perfect set, I went ahead and let my sweet husband do it. He actually does quite well in picking outfits for me regularly. (Like when I’m standing in front of a closet full of clothes and say I can’t find anything to wear.) Out they came: 1-my best fitting pair of blue jeans. 2-a loose, gray T-shirt that says LOVE. 3-a navy blue polka dot tank top. 4-a cream cardigan (that I actually bought the day before we started this month… You know, the one where I’m supposed to realized how much clothing I already have? Yeah, that one.) 5-a loose, plum cardigan, which actually got switched out in the second week for a teal 3/4 sleeve shirt because I hadn’t worn it yet and couldn’t handle switching between two shirts every other day. 6-a simple black cotton tank dress. Which I’m pretty sure I only wore twice. 7-shoes which we counted as one, but I chose two pairs: navy polka dot flats and brown flip flops, but I mostly only wore the flats. I supposed I could have just taken a picture, but use your imagination.

Now this month was much easier than month one by many standpoints. It made getting ready a breeze and laundry was minimal so that was a major plus. But a few weeks in I started asking the same question I asked during the first month, “Why are we doing this again?”. This time it was for totally different reasons though. With the food, I just really wanted to give up on it (and that was after about three days). But this month, the experiment had hardly crossed my mind. I talked to loads of people about the crazy food thing, people who probably never even saw me eat a bite of food. But clothing? It came up only a few times, and mostly with people who already knew I was doing it. And you would think with something so tangible, like the fact that I wore the same pair of jeans for almost four weeks straight, that someone might have noticed. Then I realized something: Nobody cares! I mean, people care in general, but what I wear? Nope. No one cared that I wore the same shirt every other day and the one cardigan that I had because it decided to get cold in Southern California in March. That was pretty much it. No huge, profound thoughts. Just the realization that any time and effort and money that goes into my wardrobe has little to no appreciation. Maybe I just have amazing friends who are so not materialistic that they don’t notice things like that. Or maybe they did notice and thought something might be wrong with me. Either way, it was not anything grand enough to be addressed.

I am not a shopper by nature. I like to save money and am a self proclaimed cheapskate. Rarely ever do I buy something for myself, so when it comes to clothing, I shop maybe a handful of times a year plus a few more if there is a special occasion. And at that, its clearance or a discount department store type place. Gotta love a good deal. Also, it has to be husband approved so a lot of the time half the stuff goes back to the store. Let’s just say we have differing tastes and I figure he’s the one who has to look at me so normally, he wins. Now here comes my dilemma. The week after we finished our month of 7 articles of clothing, it was Easter. Easter is always a great excuse for a new dress. But I just got through telling myself that no one really cares, so why in the world would I go spend money on a new dress when I have a closet full of perfectly good ones? I thought about it… a lot. I really just wanted to go pick out a cheap dress and not make a big deal and just move on, but I couldn’t. We bought two Easter dresses for our daughter during this time, TWO! And returned them both because we decided they weren’t right for her. I think I was actually more concerned with what she was going to wear than myself. The decision was finally made: no one was buying new easter clothes this year. Or maybe I just ran out of time, that’s quite possible as well. Instead, I decided I was going to get creative. A yellow button up thrift store shirt and some lace trim became my baby girl’s homemade dress. I rummaged through my closet and found a white dress I had bought for our anniversary last year, added a few accessories and voila, Easter apparel 2014. Would it have been nice to have a new dress this year? Sure. Would it have been necessary? Not at all. Did anyone notice I wore a dress that *gasp* I had already worn once before? I doubt it. And I had so much fun creating a dress for my daughter. Now she will have that as a memory and hopefully be able to keep it for years to come. What a gift.

All this to say, I think the experiment is working. I am learning to be content with less. Not that we were necessarily extravagant in our clothing before, but I know that we can live on much less than we currently have. What a relief to not have to worry about my clothing as much. That’s not to say that I haven’t flipped through the closet over and over to “find” something to wear since the end of the month. But the pressure is much less, like my priorities may be shifting.

I think about verses like Matthew 6:28-30

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”

And Matthew 25:38, 40

“When did we see you … needing clothes and clothe you? ”  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

This led to a purging of the closets and gave me loads of ammunition for the next month: Possessions. Its gonna be a good one, stay tuned.

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This Week, My Body

These past few weeks God has been teaching me so much. Relationships, marriage, friendships, children, family, waiting, obedience, hospitality… the list goes on. I’ve hardly had a chance to sit and process through it all, let alone write about it. But I recently had a refreshing look through a familiar passage that is just filling me with awe and gratitude, so I want to share that with you. Also, I’ll share a bunch of other stuff that has been going on in my head and maybe at the end I can pull it all together and it will make some kind of sense.

Psalms 139:13-16

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

I know I’ve seen this passage used in maternity photos and above baby cribs, but this was the first time I was able to really hear God saying, “No, this is for YOU, too.” Maybe I am just more in tune with this scripture after having a child of my own, but this just became so personal to me. To think that God was there, knitting me together, forming me in the seclusion of my mother’s womb, it must have been such a sacred time. I think of how wonderful it has been to see our baby girl grow these first two years. Every milestone has called for celebration and so many of them have been experienced by just my husband and me. It makes those times so special, seeing her learn and develop and grow. So now I imagine God there, as I was just a tiny bit of multiplying cells and he’s working away forming me and growing me. Before a single soul experienced a kick, a cry, a coo, God saw vertebrae forming and a tiny heart beating. He saw arms and legs protruding and little fingers and toes sprouting on each end. He said, “Oh, look at my sweet child, yawning and tumbling.” These are the moments that no one else has, but God and I.

I studied a few weeks back on what the Word has to say about our health. My general thought on caring for my body has been that I will be getting a new glorified body after this life, so I don’t really need to worry about this one. Boy, was I wrong about that. See, there’s this awful thing about being skinny by nature (please hold your “boo”s), I don’t really have to watch what I eat, so I don’t. I eat bread, and cheese, and more bread, and then some cheese with jalapenos and throw in some bacon, and then I feel gross and tired and so I don’t get up and get active and then the vicious cycle repeats. But really, I don’t eat terrible all the time, my family loves veggies and all kinds of good fresh foods, but pizza…. yes I love pizza… Mmmm. So last month my husband and I did this really weird thing to start cutting out excess in our lives. We got this book 7. Luckily, quite a few of our friends have at least heard of it, so we didn’t look like complete crazies, but this first month we cut out the excess on our food. We ate only 7 foods. And since everyone always asks, it was: eggs, chicken, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocado, apples and wheat bread. We gave ourselves a little leeway when it came to parties and being at other peoples houses, but for the great majority, this is what we ate. I learned quite a few things through this experience.

1. I have terrible self discipline. As in, I cry like a baby when I can’t eat whatever the heck I want. OK, maybe it’s not that bad, but it’s pretty bad. I read a sermon during this time about how our culture puts no importance on self discipline. Everything is about relaxation and recreation. People pay ridiculous amounts of money to watch other people play a sport that many people do just for “leisure”. If that doesn’t show us what our society puts importance on, then I don’t know what does. At the beginning of the month I kept asking my husband, “Why are we dong this again?”. I had a really bad attitude about it some days which God would quickly remind me of how ridiculous I was being because I could only eat these 7 delicious foods that many others would be overjoyed to eat. That brings me to my next point.

2. Food is a luxury. I would have never thought this before doing the 7 experiment. I eat extravagantly. And not like caviar and champagne. But the fact that I can walk into a warehouse full of all different kinds of foods with 14 different types of peanut butter to choose from… it’s kind of excessive, don’t you think? It doesn’t stop there though, you know that giant stockpile of nourishment, yeah, it’s across the street from my house. But I don’t go to that store because I like the one two blocks away better. Oh, and then after going to the store and filling our refrigerator and pantry, I might be just too tired to cook or maybe it’s date night, so we leave all this perfectly good food here so it can begin decomposing in our kitchen while we go out and have someone else cook and serve us food for ten times what it would have cost us at home! Am I the only one this sounds absurd to? All in all, we’ve got it gooood. With all these options for meals and eating out, I hope to be much more grateful for this luxury.

3. Good food makes you feel good! I was so used to having a stomach ache here, a little heart burn there, it just seemed normal to me. But take a few weeks and only eat whole foods? What a difference! This was really strange to me because I have never in my life been on a diet. I used to say my diet was anything cheap or free. But produce is not expensive and it’s a whole lot cheaper than eating out. I feel like a diet commercial saying this, but it really is true. The thing that opened my eyes to this was the few times that I did eat something other than those 7 foods, I felt absolutely horrible. So to think that’s how a marshmallow made me feel, I must have just felt like that all the time and didn’t realize it. From that, I have decided that we will be eating more whole foods. Also, I will be learning how to make marshmallows that don’t make me want to throw up. Because there’s no way I can live without marshmallows.

4. Cooking is creative. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am a rule follower. I like recipes and baking and things that tell me exactly how to do something the right way. Let’s just say when you only have 7 things to eat, you start to get creative. Creative like homemade sweet potato flour, apple juice salad dressing and whole wheat pizza dough apple empanadas. Don’t forget the sweet potato souffle and avocado egg salad. I really enjoyed coming up with different things to make although when it came down to it, it all tasted the same. Being able to use my creativity in the kitchen opened up a whole new venue for my “art”. I know this will help me in the future to not look in a pantry full of food and say we don’t have anything to eat. It has given me an excitement for cooking that I never had before.

So now what does all this have to do with being fearfully and wonderfully made? After a month of cutting out excess and a week of studying health and body scriptures I read this verse:

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photo credit: hipster scripture

John Piper says in a sermon regarding 1 Corinthians 6:20, ” When God paid the price of his Son to purchase his people from sin and guilt and condemnation, it was the ransom for their bodies as well as their souls.” It’s not just about your soul being saved from sin, this body is part of the package. He goes on to say, “When God bought us he did not buy us as slaves but as dwellings. His aim was not to make us work for him, but to make us full of him.” If I am going to be really serious about this perfecting process, of glorifying God with everything I have, my body needs to be part of that as well. He made this body and redeemed this body. Yes, it walks around in this fallen world and will one day be renewed in heaven, but I have a responsibility while here. Taking care of myself so that I can do more of the good works that he has prepared for me is nothing more than an appropriate response to the one who sacrificed his entire body for my salvation. My prayer is that I would be conscious of the things that I put in my body and even on my body, purifying myself out of reverence to bring glory to him.

Let’s chat:

How do you feel about your body? Do you use it to glorify God?

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If Jesus was a SAHM

This week I started a new session with Good Morning Girls. We are studying the idea of being Intentionally Focused. So instead of giving my group a novel to read through everyday, I decided to try and put all my thoughts together here.

The main idea this week was on working toward the goal of being more like Christ. We talked about letting go of things that hold us back, what it means to imitate God, and how little time we actually have to do all that in our life. I wouldn’t consider myself much of a goal setter. I’m a little more of a ‘go with the flow’ type. Having said that, everyone is searching for purpose in life, so essentially that is a goal to work toward. As a Christian, my purpose here is to glorify God; seek his kingdom above all else. We bring God glory when we live the righteous life that he has planned for us. He’s given us plenty of examples of people who have followed that path, they’ve run the race. A lot of them fell on their face along the way, but ultimately they did good enough to make it into the Bible. There is one though, that did it perfectly. It was a short 30 something years, but he lived them well. He ran the race and nothing slowed him down, he persevered and endured more than we ever will in our lifetime and did not crack under pressure. So this is our example, the goal to work toward. Notice it is not something that we attain, just something we make progress in getting closer to. This is a hard concept for me. I like to win. I like to be the best. I usually don’t even attempt to do something unless I know I am pretty darn good at it. If you’ve read any of my other blogs though, you know that I am getting better with surrendering to this refining (perfecting) process. There are a lot of things I’m not good at, like joy, and peace, and patience, and self control…the list goes on, but God continues to put me in situations that give me the opportunity to grow in those areas. I know I won’t achieve these things fully, ever, but seeing the work of God and how he transform my heart to be more like Christ, it is humbling and truly a miracle.

Another part of this I struggle with is the idea of a race. When I compare life to a race and running I think it has to be fast and busy and full. I lived like that for many years in high school and beyond, many of the things being very good things, but it was like I was a sprinter in a marathon. I’d dash from one thing to the next and try to catch my breath in between. I’ve never run a marathon, wouldn’t be surprised if I never do, but from what I know, they pace themselves. Its not about speed, but longevity. This Christian life isn’t about cramming as much stuff into it as possible, but taking each day in stride. In a sprint you’ve got barely enough time to see anyone around you, but a marathon, there are crowds of people in the race together. So I need to remember that its OK to slow down sometimes, still moving forward of course and focused on the goal, but it will help me to be able to endure the miles ahead.

So what do I do now? I’ve got all this great knowledge of what my perspective should be and what my purpose (goal) is, so now I’ve got to apply it to my life. Currently I am a stay-at-home mom. When I think about living like Jesus, I think of him traveling around teaching and preaching and doing miracles and having great compassion. And then I think, “But I just stay at home all day.” Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but comparing it to the life of Jesus is kind of tough. Then I thought, what if Jesus was a stay-at-home mom? I know he didn’t have kids, but just go with it, OK?

Mark 1:35
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Jesus would get up early to spend time with his Heavenly Father. He wouldn’t wait until the kids wake up and then try to doze for a little while longer while they play with Daddy. (Yes, this is my life, and I have an amazing husband.) I am not an early riser, except for that time I worked at a coffee shop, it was awful. This has always been the case. As a child, I would lay in bed until the last minute asking my mom to pick out my clothes for school. I really like sleep, but I also really like being filled with the Spirit and knowing that he will sustain me for whatever the day brings. Lately God has been giving me opportunity in this by jolting me awake at about 5:30 am… everyday this week. I’ve been able to get through a few verses and some groggy thoughts about them, but it’s still a work in progress.

Matthew 6:26, 28
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.”

Jesus used familiar, everyday things to connect God’s love for us. I’ve got this sponge of a daughter just soaking up everything around her in this world and there is so much opportunity for me to show her God. Its hard to know how much she comprehends, but I just need to remember it is preparing the soil of her heart for the future. I’ll be seeking out these ways to weave God into our lives. You let me know if you have any ideas, OK?

Matthew 25:35-36
‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Jesus talks in this parable of the great compassion he desires from his followers. He exemplified this is many instances by the miracles he performed. Now I don’t have the ability to do miracles (although that would be nice when it comes to laundry) but there are many ways I could show compassion to those around me. Friends, family, strangers even, they have need written all over them and it is my responsibility as a follower of Christ to seek these out and take action.

I’ll probably be going into some of these things deeper as the weeks go by since they are topics for our study. I’m looking forward to seeing the work God does in each of these areas. How do you feel about this race you are on?

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Light and Hope

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I recently went through an incredibly busy, exciting several weeks of parties and planning and more parties and an absolutely beautiful wedding. Once it was all said and done, I kind of didn’t know what to do with myself. I had been consumed with these responsibilities for so long that when it was over my mind was just blank. It took me a while to get back into life as usual. Well, life as usual has turned into the holiday season which gives me many more things to get wrapped up in. So this Christmas season I am making a concerted effort to keep the focus in our home on Christ. My daughter is just old enough to be enamored with lights and trees and the wonder of Christmas but not quite understanding the gifts and toys and the jolly old elf. I know it is only a matter of time before those ideas try to take over, so I want to instill some better foundations for Christmas while we still can. I am going through an Advent study with Good Morning Girls and have decided to do an Advent wreath with our family. I’m pretty sure we’re not doing it right, but this is our first year, I’m sure we’ll figure it out. Miss Love is more interested with the lighter we use for the candles than the actual readings and devotional, but we will take what we can get from a toddler.

These last two weeks have been talking about Hope and Love. I am using whatever means I can to connect these thoughts and help explain them to my daughter. I mentioned that she loves Christmas lights, like, LOVES them. Every time we pass a house with lights on she says “Woooooah” even if the house we just saw two feet before had lights, the next house gets a “Woooooah”. And then when those houses are out of sight and there are no lights on the horizon I hear “More, more!” from the back seat. So are you ready for my simple, childlike, hope and love connection for all these things? I tell my sweet girl, “You see all these beautiful lights on the houses? They are just like Jesus. God sent him to earth to be the light and hope of the world because he loves us so much and that is why we celebrate Christmas.” I’m not sure what all she is comprehending from this, but if I can use Christmas lights as a away to keep the focus on Jesus this season then that’s what I’m going to do!

Its not only shaping her idea of Christmas but its redirecting my thoughts as well. I think of these houses with lights, some are simple, some extravagant, some are perfectly polished and some are everything but the kitchen sink. It makes me wonder what the light of Jesus looks like in me? Is it shining bright or dimly lit? Is it only the pristine pulled together thoughts that I share on this blog or is it in the everyday moments of my life? There are some people, like these houses, that just put everything out on the front lawn. Its hanging from the roof tops, its draped across the windows and there’s all kinds of stuff strewn about shining lights all over. Jesus covers every inch of them and people come from all over to see. Then there are the many more that display a solid string trimming the boarders yet still proclaiming the same bold message. Now I’m not exactly an over-the-top kind of girl so I imagine that the light of Jesus in me is a little more like the latter. But what really speaks to me is the thought of all the other houses in between. In the midst of all these glowing abodes there are many that are completely dark, no light or hope in them. We forget about them, we drive by without another glance because they don’t have anything to offer us. They are not joining in the holiday spirit. And just as these forgotten houses are dark, so many during this season are broken and hurting and searching for a glimpse of hope.

This year we have a simple strand of lights that adorn our home. Now this is a big step up, for the first five years we were married we didn’t have the time or energy to put anything up. There’s something about having a child though that changes your priorities. Now, instead of adding extra clients to the books or working all hours of the night, we’re spending weekends decorating a tree and stringing lights on the house. We’re driving around for no apparent reason other than to see the wonder in a child’s eyes as she “woooooah”s and “more, more”s at the decor of the season. We are having discussions of how do we ‘do Santa’ if even at all. We are concerned that our daughter learns more about Jesus than snowmen, reindeer and elves. We have this responsibility as light bearers of the hope that Christ brings.

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Jesus was here for a short time on this earth. He brought light and hope to many lives but he also left us with a flickering flame holding onto the hope that he will return one day and we will live in his light forever. That hope is available to all because of the baby born in a manger who lived a sinless life and died in my place. Then he defeated death and proclaimed his victory over darkness. Don’t you want to share that with all the dark homes you see? So whatever that means to you, a note or a card, cookies or treats, a thoughtful gift or just quality time spent with someone in need, use this season to shine a little brighter the hope and love of Jesus Christ. I know that’s what I will be doing.

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Scripture Shield

After the trauma of my daughter’s birth, I dealt with a lot of anxiety. I know that I said I had peace while going through it all, and now know that God has worked it all together for good, but I was a wreck for a good long while afterward. All the hormones and fatigue from having the baby and then round the clock care for a newborn, it was incredibly overwhelming. I replayed the days of labor and the delivery over and over in my head wondering what I could have done differently. You see, it wasn’t just the birth that devastated me, it was the effects after. I didn’t have the rush of hormones that you get from a natural birth that quickly bond you to your child. I didn’t get to hold her right away or nurse her and have those special moments of connection. She was then in the NICU for days and I was unable to feed her on command. While my body was recovering from surgery it wasn’t able to produce the milk needed to sustain my child. Supplementing with formula and wondering if she was getting enough added stress to the situation. Nothing had turned out the way I had wanted. There was a million ‘what ifs’ that swirled through my head every moment of everyday.

There was also the reality that set in of being a mother, wife, homemaker, friend… the list goes on. I couldn’t do it all and do it all well. In those early days, I felt accomplished if I could keep myself and my child fed and clean. I was working on about 1 1/2 hour increments of sleep throughout the night (and sometimes the day). My sweet husband was supportive and selflessly picked up everything I wasn’t keeping up on. This added to my guilt of not being able to care for him and our home. I would meltdown every now and then under the weight of the expectations I placed on myself. After months of attempting to do it all on my own, I finally found the way to get through it. I needed more than moral support or helping hands. I needed God’s help. I told Him, “Lord, I give you control, I know that I cannot do it on my own.” I needed His strength and His promises and His truths. Those words were a turning point for me. I came to him daily with my worries and fears, my failures and shortcomings. Our God and His love for us truly does not ever fail. He supplied me with everything I needed to face the day.

One of the things He offered me was a shield of Scripture. I know that in the “armor of God” the Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit, but I was in no position to be on the offense. I was so weary and weak that I just used these scriptures to shield myself from the attacks. I memorized these scriptures and repeated them over and over as often as I needed.

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I could pull these verses apart and explain how God used so many of these pieces to minister to me. The greatest comfort was having the inexplicable peace of God guarding my heart and mind. The attacks subsided as I fended them off with the holy truth of God. The enemy was sifting me and I was losing the battle for a while, but God drew me back to Him and fought the fight for me. Through surrender, prayer, scripture and faith, God brought me through that rough time. I have been able to use these verses to encourage others many times since then. I hope that when you encounter the attack of worry, fear or anxiety that you remember these words and cling tightly to them. Meditate on these things.

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Poor as you are

To be honest, I have been having a hard time with this whole blog writing thing. I was super excited about it at first. I knew that it was something God was calling me to do. I would pray about what He wanted me to write and I would get these great ideas with words that just flowed out onto my keyboard. Lately I have written a few drafts . . . let them sit for a while . . . deleted some . . . I just didn’t feel they were blog worthy. Then things picked up in life and I just thought that if God wasn’t going to give me anything to write about then I didn’t have to worry about posting anything until I felt inspired. This weekend I realized that it wasn’t that he wasn’t giving me things to write about, I wasn’t praying, asking and LISTENING to what he had to say.

Enter: the enemy. I have been subtly attacked by discouragement and timidity and I didn’t even recognize it. I’ve been reading these beautifully composed blogs, so poetic and well written and realizing I am no where near that talented in writing. I’ve heard amazing stories of hope and restoration through the graceful hand of God and I think that my stories are not as heart wrenching or miraculous. I don’t feel that I have much to offer, so I haven’t been offering it. Then, I read these words:

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This is from the story of the widow who gave her last two coins. I love this idea of giving everything that you have, offering it all to God. I tend to hold possessions loosely and enjoy giving away much of what I have. Especially if I know it is a lot and will make a difference that I can see. We have SO much in this country! We are wealthy beyond belief and could literally feed and clothe the rest of the world. We have so much to offer and giving everything we have could definitely have a big effect on this world.

But what if you don’t have much to offer? What if you only have a few coins, a small story, a feeble ability? Would you be willing to offer that as well? I think about the boy with the loaves of bread and the fish. What if when they started talking about needing to get all those thousands of people fed, he looked at his lunch and said, “Well this wouldn’t even make a dent in feeding this crowd, I’ll just keep it to myself.” We would have missed out on one of the most grand miracles in the New Testament. His faith and willingness to give was all that was needed to feed all those thousands of people.

Our pastor has recently been doing a series on “The Blessed Life” by Robert Morris. He talked about how when we give back to God he takes that, redeems it, blesses it and multiplies it. So while I may think that I don’t have much talent or compelling stories, I am reminded that if I take this small amount and offer it to God, he will bless it and use it for his kingdom however he sees fit.

Is there any area that you feel you may not have much to offer, but you know that God is calling you to give anyway?

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Control Freak

I never would have thought of myself as a control freak really. Planner, yes. Perfectionist, definitely. But having to be in control? God taught me a lot about this through the birth of my daughter. Let me start by saying that I consider myself a fan of “crunchiness”. As in granola, natural, holistic, hippie type stuff. Notice that I don’t claim to be crunchy, I just like the idea of it. I’m much too conservative and eat way too much bacon to be considered granola. Anyway, when it came to childbirth I really liked the idea of a natural birth. I have friends and family with amazing natural un-medicated birth stories and I wanted to experience that. I had this idea that God made our bodies to birth babies and so I wanted to experience it fully. Then there were all of the health reasons and benefits with bonding and hormones and all kinds of other stuff that I won’t get into. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate modern medicine and I often tell people that if they don’t have any type of strong conviction about having a natural birth, then by all means, do what you gotta do. I just really wanted a natural birth. Looking back, I realize that I was putting much more faith in myself and my body’s ability to give birth than in the Lord’s strength and what his will was for me. The whole birth story is kind of long and ridiculous so I may or may not share that here some time but I’ll give you some highlights of what all we went through.

Week 39 mention of induction from our nurse midwife
Week 40 nurse midwife plans for induction the next week, we refuse (remember, we wanted this birth to be natural, so the labor would have to start naturally)
Week 41 we are assigned to an OB and considered ‘high risk’ because we are now post term
Week 42 multiple Non-stress tests are performed to make sure baby is OK (she’s fine, very comfortable in there)
Week 42 1/2 we decide to induce hoping to avoid complications due to long gestation
12 hours later . . . Nada.
2 hours later water breaks naturally
2 hours later contractions are not starting so pitocin is introduced
Labored for 20 or so hours (5 cm, halfway there)
Decide to get an epidural to conserve energy for pushing
5 more hours haven’t progressed well
I begin to shake uncontrollably (thanks epidural) and my temperature spikes
Baby’s heat rate becomes unstable
Our last and final option (my worst nightmare) we decide to do a caesarean section
46 hours since we entered the hospital our sweet baby girl, Miss Love, enters the world

But wait . . . there’s more

Our daughter’s blood tests come back with an abnormality. Because of my temperature during labor they are concerned that she may develop an infection. She is taken to the NICU that evening and spends the first week of her life there. I spend the first week of her life recovering from surgery and visiting her 8 hours a day.

Talk about devastating. It could not have played out further from what I wanted it to be. That little section there about choosing our last option of a C-section, it was awful and beautiful all at the same time. I bawled the whole time the doctor talked us through the procedure. I can’t even tell you a single word he said because I was a wreck. We had spent hours before that praying and singing worship songs and begging God to move. He did, just not how we had hoped. Once they wheeled me into the operating room I was more calm than I could have ever imagined. My poor sweet husband was shocked at the sight of his wife being cut open, but I was able to carry on conversation and keep from dwelling on the fact that my baby was now being cut out of me.

The one thing that I held onto during all this, including the time my daughter was in the NICU, was this overwhelming inexplicable peace. Never once did I worry that she or I was in danger. I knew without a doubt that God was in control and he was taking care of us. And it wasn’t a fake confidence like I had about my body being able to birth this kid naturally. It was undeniable love from the Father that even though my worst nightmare had occured (and then some) He was still good and he was still God and he was completely in control.

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This is something that I knew God was teaching me soon after Miss Love’s birth, and I have a good grasp on it now, but it has been a long process to see how God has worked it all together for good.

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