Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Living in Freedom

A few weeks ago, a situation came up with a couple of my kids where I had a child being a tattle tale on another child.  As I heard the accusing child try to convict the other child to get them in trouble, I kept hearing the one being accused continue to plea his innocence.  I don't always go after a child being tattled on, but this time, something struck me that I needed to deal with this one.

The whole situation revolved around my 6 year old little boy and the fact that he wouldn't let another kid his age sit with him on the bus.  I took him into the other room so we could be alone and so we could talk about what had happened.  I could tell that he was upset by what was going on.  I sat him down and began asking questions, trying to get his side of the story and what really happened.  He just sat there for the longest time visibly shaken and with tears about to fall from his eyes.  I continued to ask him questions as to why he was so upset.  "Are you upset because your sister told on you?" Followed by a shake of the head, no.  "Why are you upset?"  Silence.  "Are you upset because you think you are in trouble?"  Again, head shake, no.  This continued for quite a few minutes.  Finally, I asked him if he was sad because he wasn't kind to his friend on the bus.  The tears began to flow and he shook his head, yes.  This child is our sensitive, tender-hearted child, and it breaks his heart when he is wronged against and also when he hurts or wrongs someone else.

His sin broke his heart and physically shook him.  I'm sure the guilt had been eating through him as I questioned him a hundred times.  My heart was breaking for my little tender-hearted boy.  We continued discussing what he did and how he was unkind and then I talked to him about how everyone sins and is unkind sometimes.  I explained to him that Jesus died for all the bad things we do and that if we confess our sins to him, he forgives us and makes us clean again.  He makes us whiter than snow.  We took some time praying together and I led him in asking forgiveness for his sin.  When we finished, I could sense that his burden was lifted, that he was freed from the bondage of his sin.  He was smiling and laughing.  He was free.

As I reflect on that situation with my son, I was struck with conviction in my own life.  How often do I let my sin bog me down?  How often do I live in the guilt or condemnation of my own sin?  Or, how often do I pretend that I am good enough and I don't have sin in my life?  If I just ignore it, it will go away, right?  Wrong!

I am involved in a women's Bible study in our church right now and we are going through the book of 1 John.  I believe it is really hard to read the book of 1 John and not be convicted by our sin.   I really don't think it was an accident that this situation came up.  It very possibly could have been that God wanted to use this situation more for me than for him.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  1 John 1:8-10
The truth is we all sin (Romans 3:23).  We all fail, make mistakes and fall so short of God's glory. The good news is that God loves us so much that he sent his son to pay the price, a price we rightly deserve, for our sins.  The good news is that,  "if we confess our sins he is faithful to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).  This is something we could never do on our own.  We can never be good enough or try hard enough to rid ourselves of our sins, but Jesus is and Jesus DID!

The question is am I quick see conviction of my sin in my life and am I quick to confess and repent of it?

If we walk around trying to ignore our sin or living in guilt and condemnation of our sin, we are not walking in the freedom God designed us to live in.  This is why Jesus died and rose again.  He died for us because he loved us and has a better plan for our lives.  His plan is FREEDOM!

Monday, September 22, 2014

You Are Beautiful

Today my daughter, son and I went for a walk to enjoy this gorgeous day.  As my daughter was riding her bike, she quickly stopped and I wondered what she was doing.  She then got off her bike and ran over and pick a perfectly, bright yellow dandelion.  As we continued on, she kept admiring her dandelion.  Then she asked me about sunflowers and if they had black in the middle.  I think she was trying to figure out if the flower she picked was a sunflower.  I told her sunflowers do have black middle, but what she was holding was a dandelion.  I then casually mentioned that it was actually a weed.  All at once she  looked up at me with wide, questioning eyes as if to say, "Are you kidding me?  This beautiful yellow thing in my hand is most certainly a flower and not a weed.  Just look at it, mom!"

We continued talking about how pretty it was.  I actually changed my mind as well and saw the weed through her little eyes.  It was most certainly a flower.

This whole time my mind was turning.

I wondered about how many times I get so caught up in viewing myself as a weed;  my flaws, my mess, a failure as a parent, in my marriage, in my relationship with the Lord and others.  Do we all, sometimes, think that the way we view ourselves is how God views us?  Do we fall into the lie that we are a failure to him?  Do we wonder if he thinks, "man, that girl is a mess. I really wish she would get her act together."?  Do we believe he sees us as a weed?

Well, through my daughters eyes today, I was reminded that is not the truth.  She saw the beauty, just as God sees the beauty in us.  He created us.  He sent His Son to die for us.  He sees us pure and righteous because of the death and resurrection of his Son.

This reminds me of Zephaniah 3:17, "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."

He rejoices over you, dear sister.  He sings over you.  Don't forget you are his flower.  You are not a weed.  So take those feelings of inadequacy and failure and lay them aside.  Fix your eyes on the truth. You are loved and adored by the Most High God!  


Monday, March 24, 2014

Steps Toward Healing

It seems so many around me lately are dealing with loss...death of someone close to them.  I've been thinking recently about losing Charlotte and what has helped me in my journey towards healing.  I would also like to note that I am not there yet.   I am still learning to grieve and mourn, and I am still healing from such a huge loss.  After getting all of my thoughts down, I have realized these steps could be useful for any trial.

1.  Write - I would write especially in those very early days after losing Charlotte.  It seems as though each morning I would wake up sad, lonely and weary.  I would cry, Steve would hold me and pray. Then I would pull myself out of bed and into the chair in my bedroom.  There I would sit for the next hour or so and write in my journal.  Writing helped me to process all that was going on in our world and in my mind.  It helped me to process my feelings, my longings, my pain.  I would write in different ways.  I wrote letters to Charlotte.  I wrote out my fears, my hurt.  I would write out scripture that encouraged me.  I would write out prayers.  Some of my early journaling later became some of my blog, but not all of it.

2.  Worship - Sometimes I felt as if I couldn't pray and I didn't know what to pray for myself.  I would instead listen to worship music.  Music really ministered to my heart.  I remember being amazed at how many songs met me right where I was at and how others (those who wrote the songs) had, too, been where I was at dealing with hurts and trials.  As I played worship music, I would sing, pray and cry, sometimes sob.  Worshipping God takes my eyes off of myself and my pain and it put my eyes on my God who is  sovereign and so worthy of anything I can give to him and more.  Through worship I am reminded who I am, who God is and that this life is so temporal.  God is not just about the here and now on this earth.  He is about eternity.  Worship makes me yearn for heaven where there will be no more death, no more tears, no more sadness, no more pain and where I will once again meet my daughter face to face.

3.  Immerse myself in the promises of God -  I have to admit that sometimes in the early days, it was hard for me to go to the Word of God.  I am so thankful for the friends who would text me scripture and send me notes with promises of who God is.  As I memorized some of those promises, I clung to the truth in God's word and that in turn increased my faith as I felt God's presence in my life so fully.

4.  Let others serve me -  This one was difficult.  I am fairly independent, and hate to be a bother to someone.  But, as soon as we found out we lost Charlotte, the requests to "help in anyway" came pouring in.  The truth is most people cared for us and just wanted to do something.  In being with friends going through trials and being on the flip side, I totally understand the feeling of helplessness and wanting to lessen your friend's pain, to do anything to help.  Although, most of the time we didn't know what we really needed.  One of the best things we did was to say yes when someone offered to help in a specific way.  Yes, to when someone offered to bring us a meal.  Yes, when a friend offered to do our laundry.  This dear friend did our laundry, a less desirable task in my opinion, for six weeks, six weeks!  Let me tell you, though, not having to worry about keeping the kids in clean clothes during those early weeks was such a blessing.

We also realized that we needed to ask for help when we knew a specific need.  The day we found out we lost Charlotte at the doctors, we left Steve's car at the doctors office so neither of us had to drive home alone.  All that afternoon we were trying to figure out how we would get Steve's car back home.  Later that evening, friends came over after they heard of our loss.  Steve mentioned his car and our friend offered to go with Steve's dad to get it.  Such a blessing.  A couple days later as we were making arrangements for Charlotte's funeral, I was going through the kids clothes to make sure they all had something to wear for the funeral.  I realized the boys shirts needed to be ironed.  In the first place, I really don't like ironing and it stressed me out to think I would have to fit that in somewhere into my already cramped schedule.  I threw a note out on Facebook and within a couple minutes I had a couple offers.  Such a relief!  As it turns our, the friend that did our ironing doesn't even iron herself, much like me, but she just wanted to help serve us in any way.

As I've stated in other posts, we were so blessed by the servanthood of our friends and church.  I am so thankful I didn't let my own pride stop me from saying yes to their offers to help.  Their help freed me to take the time to mourn and to be there for my kids and family.

5.  Exercise - Around five weeks after losing Charlotte, I began running again.  Since it was still cold out and I'm a fair weather runner ;) I began running on the treadmill.  Before losing Charlotte when I ran I would listen to podcasts and sermons as I ran.  After, though, I made a worship playlist of songs that touched my heart.  When I ran, I turned on my music and off I went.  Not only did running help me feel I was doing something good for me and my body, but it became great times of worship for me as well.  When I exert myself in exercise and as I come to the end of myself physically,  I am able to more clearly see who God is and my deep dependence on Him.  Just a tip though, raising hands or closing eyes in worship while running on a treadmill is not a good idea, although, I never actually fell, I almost did a few times :)

Around the time I started running again, my sister and I decided to train for and do our first mini triathlon.  Setting this goal before me gave me something to work for, something that not only did my body good, but would give me a sense of accomplishment once I did it.

These are just some of the things that have helped me on the long road of mourning and healing.  I am almost certain I have forgotten some things too.  I do know that each person is different and what works for one may not work for another.  I am curious though, and others may be as well, if you have experienced loss in any way, what helped you?  Please feel free to leave a comment below and share with everyone.

Friday, March 14, 2014

One Year of Loss

A few weeks back marked a year since our Charlotte went to be with the Lord.  Steve and I were just talking the other day about how sometimes it seems like it was only last week and other times it feels like it never happened.  I wish I had something profound to say about living with grief, about some huge things I learned over the past year.  I don't.  I think grief is one of those things that we won't ever be able to fully put our heads around and explain in a pattern.  Grief is unpredictable.  One minute you are fine and the next it hits you like you just got run over by a semi and you don't know which way is up.

The week leading up to her death anniversary was really rough.  It seemed we had challenges all around.  In my mind, I knew Saturday, February 8 was coming quickly.  I was worried about how I would respond with the one year anniversary of our loss.  That made me super sensitive (like I wasn't  already sensitive after having a baby 6 weeks earlier :) and on edge.  To make matters a bit more difficult, February 8 is also Leah's birthday.  I was worried about making her day special, especially since her birthday last year was so dark.  I, also, was worried about how I could manage celebration along with grief and mourning.

When I woke up that morning, I was like, here we go.  I took time that morning to sit down and write for a bit.  I am so thankful for being able to write.   Writing has proved to be healing in so many ways this past year (but that is a whole other post).

As I showered that morning, it all hit me and I broke down.  I felt loss, anger, guilt.  So many emotions at one time.  I wanted to mourn, but I also wanted to make the day special for Leah and I felt I didn't know how to do both.  I can now look back and see that the Lord met me in those moments and He gave me strength to face the day.  Once again, I am blown away by his grace, something I so don't deserve and something I could never do on my own.

Steve and I had already made plans to visit the cemetery with the kids and take pink roses.  The kids haven't been there since her funeral last year and Steve and I have only been once.  We finally had her headstone installed in October and we hadn't even seen it yet.  It was snowing and it was so beautiful out.  We were thankful for the cemetery we chose.  It is in the country, backed up to the woods and oh, so beautiful.   We had to tromp through the snow to get to her grave.  All I can say is that it was beautiful.  I had no tears (I got those out earlier).  It was just a special time with the kids.

Then we got on with the rest of our day.  Leah was so gracious.  I truly believe she enjoyed her special day to the fullest.

I am so thankful for God's graciousness that day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Baby Elijah

I know I haven't written as much in the last few months.  The end of December proved to be a bit more stressful, with the end of my pregnancy.  In that time, we joyously welcomed little Elijah to our family.  A joy he is.  

Elijah William 
December 30, 2013 
6 pounds 7 ounces
18 inches long

At my 36 week appointment, my doctor said the baby looked good and recommend we go ahead and schedule induction for the next week (37 weeks), since we lost Charlotte in the 37th week of pregnancy.  We wanted to get Elijah out while we knew everything was okay with him.  

Once we arrived at the hospital, it took a while, actually quite a while in my opinion, for my body to get into labor.  We spent most of that day in the hospital chilling and waiting anxiously to meet our son.  Eventually around six or seven that evening things started to progress.  I did get an epidural (my 9th, ugh!), but I have to say this was my worst one ever.  I couldn't feel my left leg at all, but could feel everything else.  I started feeling quite a bit of pain and I told Steve that he should call my doctor who was at home.  He didn't and we just told my nurse.  She eventually came in the with resident doctor and examined me about an hour later.  As she checked me, I could tell she was thinking.  I was thinking, "shoot, nothing has changed and yet I'm in all this pain."  Then she calmly said, "she's a 9, if not complete."  I was like, "What?"  I told them to call my doctor because I usually only have to push 2-3 times until the baby comes out.  I was afraid he wouldn't make it on time.  He made it, thankfully, and Elijah was born a couple minutes later.  

We are so thankful for God and his graciousness and goodness towards us.  He has once again blessed us beyond all measure.  


Monday, February 17, 2014

My Pregnancy/Baby Statistics

*A post I wrote a few months ago but didn't publish.

It is hard to believe we are coming quickly to the end of this pregnancy and Lord willing meeting our new little man.  This week marks 33 weeks.  This has to be my fastest pregnancy yet.  I am at the my body is achy, uncomfortable and tired stage.  As I told a friend this morning at church, this was so much easier when I was 23 (the age I was with my first child).

This made me think of writing down some statistics mainly out of my own curiosity.

So in the past 14 years ...

*I have been pregnant for 81 months which equals 6.75 years.  That is almost 7 years people...pregnant for 7 years.  Holy cow!  Steve and I have been married for 15 years this past August (good thing he likes it when I am pregnant.)

*I have been nursing one of our babies for a total of around 7 years as well.  So in other words, I have been either been pregnant or nursing the last 14 years.

*Conservatively, we have changed around 25,000 diapers.  I don't even want to calculate how much money that has cost us (but Steve did and says it's around $8,000).  We should have started using cloth diapers with our first baby.

*We've celebrated 58 birthdays with our kids.  All of our birthdays range between December and August.  We celebrate three birthdays in one month, two birthdays in one month, and a single birthday in three separate months.

*I've given birth in two countries, but also only two cities and in only two hospitals.

*The same doctor has delivered seven of our children and a midwife delivered one.

*I have completed one sprint triathlon...while pregnant.

*We have always struggled picking boys names, and joke that this baby boy will be named "Steve Jr."

Monday, February 10, 2014

Little Faith...Big God

As I said just yesterday, why does God always put me in a place of waiting?  In the next breath I answered it...because without waiting on Him for something we would have no reason to trust Him.  Isn't that where He wants us...to have complete dependence and faith in Him?

It's hard though.  Isn't it?

One would think that after the rough year we've had I would have perfected this area of my life, but I haven't.  I have grown in trusting God more, but I'm not there yet.  Each and every day something comes up and causes me to question.  Do I really trust that God loves me enough to care about this circumstance?  Do I trust He has time for me?  Do I believe He will act on my behalf because I am His child?  Do I really believe He causes all things for good for those who love Him?

When I am doing this questioning, I am taking my eyes off of Jesus and putting them on my problems, my circumstances.

This brings to mind the story of Peter in Matthew 14:28:33.

The story begins with Jesus walking on the water out to his disciples.  They were afraid when they saw him and thought He was a ghost.  Because, really how many times do we see someone walking on water?  When Peter saw Jesus, he called to Jesus and said, "Lord, if its you, command me to come to you on the water."  Jesus told him to come.  Peter then climbed out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus.

What happens next is what happens to me over and over again.

When Peter saw the wind, he was afraid and began to sink.  I equate the wind to his circumstances, his problems, his fears, or his trials.  He let his fear overcome him.  He was focusing more on the wind, his circumstances, instead of on Jesus.  The result was that he began to sink.  But when Peter noticed he was sinking, he cried out to Jesus, "Lord, save me" and in another translation, "Lord, help me."

IMMEDIATELY!  Jesus reached out his hand and took hold of him.  Jesus didn't wait until he sank completely.  Once Peter turned his focus back to Jesus and called out to him, Jesus saved him.  Jesus came to the rescue.  Then Jesus said, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

Ugh!  That's me.  Peter knew who Jesus was because in the beginning of the story Peter called him Lord.  He had obviously experienced him in the past enough to call him Lord, but he still doubted.  The reason he doubted is because he took his eyes off of Jesus and put them on his circumstances, the wind.  This is not where the Lord desires our eyes to be.  We need to take our eyes off of our circumstances and put them on the Lord.

"Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith..."  Hebrews 12:1&2 
Did you see that?  The perfecter of our faith.  Jesus called it.  What Peter and I both lack is faith.  The thing is we don't get faith by working harder.  We cannot attain more faith ourselves.  Jesus perfects our faith as we turn our eyes back to Him.  He is the one who grows our faith.

After Jesus saved Peter, they climbed into the boat and the wind stopped.  Next, the disciples worshiped Jesus saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

I need to make sure that my response to Jesus rescuing me is always worship.  After all, that is why He made me...to worship Him.

What circumstance is going on in your life right now that you need to take your eyes off of?  What is keeping you from turning your eyes to Jesus?

He is able!

Cry out to him.  Lord, help me!

 and He will.