Being the weirdo I am, this whole fiasco got me thinking about how much we take common things for granted. You know my son actually asked me how we made it before microwaves. I remember we made it just fine and didn't even know what we were missing. I reminded him that we lived in Haiti for a whole year without a microwave, or a refrigerator, or washing machine, or hot water, or a flushing toilet, you get the picture. Its funny how we go along just fine until something is taken away from us, even something small like say, cable television. I was actually talking to my husband about getting rid of ours and then the construction crew next door accidentally cut it. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was sit around and watch CSI all day.
What is it with me? Its the little things that get under my skin and don't think about taking something away from me that I think I'm entitled to. I mean this is America, I deserve and expect air conditioning, internet, and a comfortable chair at church. Yet with this attitude I come to the Lord as well. "God, I deserve this prayer to be answered, I mean I do so much for you. But please don't ask for me to put myself out there for your use, its too uncomfortable for me."
Maybe its the new year, maybe its not, but I have felt a real renewal of purpose in my life. Last year was an amazing journey with God and my family. So much was learned about His nature and my former opinions of Him were all challenged. What I have really been thinking about lately are those things that I really really hate about me. I know that sounds so trite, but its true. People close to me say that I am really demanding, both on myself and others and I have to agree. I spent last year examining alot of my actions and coming up short in the acceptance department. What are my true motivations? What really makes me tick?
I could make an extensive list of all the things I want to change about me, but God has a completely different idea. How about if I let him do the changing in me? He knows better what needs to go and what needs to stay. This year is going to be a year of transformation, but I don't think its going to be how we imagine. God wants to work on every facet of those He loves. Inside, outside, thoughts, perceptions, everything. We may find out that those things we really hate about ourselves, those things we keep trying to change are really what make us-us. I'm not talking about sin here. I'm talking about our natural tendencies and inclinations, that need to have some tweaking from the Creator. Stupid example, I know but recently I watched the movie Wanted. In that movie, the main character had some parts of his personality that he just couldn't accept. He tried medication, distraction, everything. He just tried to fit in, but he found out that he had a particular DNA that made him special, and he learned how to take full advantage of those characteristics that had been a hindrance to him before. He didn't just accept who he was, he embraced it and learned to excel at what he was born to do. Stop there. You were born into God's kingdom with special characteristics. God made you who you are and only He can see your true potential. He doesn't desire for you to be less and He definitely does not want for you to be content in and of yourself. You are call by Him. Wanted...not dead, but alive in His purposes. find your voice, stretch your wings, allow God to train you and to call you from the place you are right now. Leave your old life behind and follow after him. If you are feeling discontent and hollow, jump into the flow of what God is doing in your life, submit to His will. His life is more than just living, its the adventure that you were made for.
I've heard many sermons on this action, but I don't judge Peter. I understand. God has never been more real and present in my life until recently. It seems that he has been speaking to me everyday, performing the miraculous in my life. It's amazing. But when the dust settles, I'm still here life still comes up at me. Where is the power that I see from God in my own hands? Where do I go from here Lord? You know Peter was sitting out there in his little fishing boat wondering the same thing, now what? Wonderful and awesome miracles Jesus but what now? The fish aren't even biting so I guess I'm useless at what I know how to do too. What can become of my life now that I am no longer satisfied with what I used to know but I don't know how to walk in what you have shown me? I just can't go back to the former because I am not the same I have been forever changed just by knowing you. You've messed up my life Jesus what can I be good for now?
But just at that moment, Jesus shows up and brings the fish with him. He tells the guys to put the net on the other side of the boat and the fish are practically jumping inside. Funny thing though, when Peter sees Jesus he doesn't care about the fish anymore he jumps out of the boat and runs to him. Jesus! Jesus! I don't want it to be like this I can't live like an ordinary person anymore, I have to live for you. Show me how show me what you have for me to do!
Titus 2 says, "Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don't want anyone looking down on God's Message because of their behavior." Now I put myself in the older women category not because I find my struggle not being with strong drink or a wagging tongue, and not because I think I'm such a model of goodness. Instead I see that girls are starting to come to me as an example of how to take care of my family and my house. No, I'm not really good at it yet, but I have had some practice.
In fact, it wasn't really until my last baby, Emari, that I really started enjoying being a mommy. I know that's sad but I still had this strange feeling that I was on a really extended babysitting job and eventually the parents were gonna come home and pay me for taking care of their kiddos. Even now sometimes my older son calls me mom with his deep masculine voice and it sets off something inside me. "Who is he talking to exactly?" I ask myself. "I'm way too young to be his momma." Now this time around, I've been enjoying postpartum recovery an awful lot. Once I got over the pain, I have been reveling in the clean house aspect. All of the sudden, I'm planning meals, and cleaning up and loving it. My family, other than the momma cooking part, have enjoyed it too. (everybody in our house prefers for daddy to cook, including daddy, but that's another blog)
I have to give props to two girls I overheard at the park the other day. They were discussing their lives at home and how their husbands went to work each day. These girls, who are in no way slaves to domesticity, actually verbalized their belief that as long as they are staying home with the baby, keeping house and taking care of their husband is their job. Oh my gosh, what a novel idea. I never really looked at it that way, honestly. In my dutiful staying-home-with-the young-uns days, I resented my man driving away each morning and leaving me to a day full of drudgery and near slavery at home. I thought he had it good and even though I kept house and took care of the babies, I hated every minute. Nearly every day I planned my escape.
Now those babies are grown and helping around the house wondering when exactly I'm going to go out and get a real job. Not the image I want to project anymore. They do need me and desire my attention at home, but my distress in those early years poured over onto them. There's still a few good years left to remedy now that I've seen the light, but I do wish I would have had good examples of content older women to guide me along my road. There are seasons in life and there are roads that we choose to walk down. In this road and season I want to be a Godly example of contentment and success God help me.
2 Timothy 1:7
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.
He gives us the spirit of power, which gives us authority over fear in our lives. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we have power to overcome.Love seems out of place in regards to fear but the Word says in 1 John 4:17 that, "There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love." When you're talking about relationships, fear and love make more sense. If you love someone you need to be able to trust him. That's where fear can come in and cripple the relationship. We must trust God that He loves us and also trust Him in order to love Him. If you're walking around in a partnership that you can't really feel comfortable that the other person is doing their part, you won't let your guard down.
The calm and well-balance mind is where our imaginations come into play. Fear can make your mind think some pretty crazy things. You have got to have control over your imagination. That includes not allowing influences like television, movies or even books or magazines to feed into your imagination.
These things don't make it easy to overcome my fear, but they do give me insight into how I can combat it and win.
The point of this post is not my daughter however, it was the caliber of servanthood I witnessed around me at the said event. I love watching people truly give themselves for others. You know the kind of laying down your life for another that says, "I'm doing this for you and for God, not for what I can get in return but for the sheer pleasure of serving." Almost sounds ridiculous doesn't it? So many times we run into people, maybe even recognize in our own hearts, the every man for himself mentality.
I've heard it said even in ministry that someone had paid their dues and now they're basking in the fruit of their labor. At the time I remember thinking that I really hoped I would never feel like my job was done. It seemed somewhat prideful to think that someone thought they could be the judge of their own works. Jesus paid the ultimate price and laid down His own life for mankind yet His job isn't finished. So what makes us think we can slow down?
2 Timothy 4:1-8Take your cue from Jesus, the ultimate Judge, and your encouragement from Paul, a man who never slowed down. Keep running, let God be the one to exalt you, not yourself.
I can't impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don't ever quit. Just keep it simple.
You're going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They'll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you're doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God's servant.
You take over. I'm about to die, my life an offering on God's altar. This is the only race worth running. I've run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that's left now is the shouting—God's applause! Depend on it, he's an honest judge. He'll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming.
As an adult I do the same thing with God. I hide my pain even from Him. I run from His cleansing power. Whether the pain was self-inflicted or brought on by someone else my response remains the same, "I can handle this on my own, I don't need your help." Yet as I draw near to God I realize that if my wounds are allowed to heal on their own sometimes they don't heal correctly. There is still some dirt in there or the bone isn't set right. That can lead to infection or lameness. The scouring that God gives to our wounds is so necessary, and Jesus is the balm of Gilead. Anything that He requires from us, He will give back and in even greater abundance than before.
It is so hard for us to understand that simple concept. He doesn't want to take from us for no reason. He wants to give so much to us, but we have to be willing to let Him in to our hearts and clean house. His system is so superior to our thinking and comprehension that it boggles our minds. Where else could I bring my broken dirty tattered life and receive love, mercy, and understanding, even acceptance? The life of a King's daughter in exchange for the life of a beggar on the streets. God loves us more than we can even begin to grab a hold of, so don't even try. Let Him wrap you in His love, no holds barred.
Anyways, such was not the case earlier this week. Some things occurred, in my husband's mind probably just short of my running over his dog on purpose, and we had a fight. Nothing big, just two unhappy people talking to each other in short direct sentences with a stern tone attached. He went off to do his thing and I stayed home and made sure I was in bed before he got home. No discussion later, no return to the subject, but definitely not back to our old jolly selves. However, what I think is truly amazing about this man God blessed me with is that even though I know he still thinks he's right and I'm wrong, he loves me anyway. He shows me in trivial ways like pouring my coffee and making it just the way I like it. Picking up things that he knows I love like sweet pickles and croissants and mint chocolate biscotti. I show him by picking up his messes and organizing his schedule and texting him so he won't forget appointments. Stupid stuff that maybe nobody else cares about, but these are the things that make us just that, us.
Its not just me and its not just him, its us, together. We've been together long enough to know exactly what makes each other tick and yeah, maybe we don't have to sit down and hash out the ways that I hurt him and the ways he hurt me during that last fight. We take the complaints on both sides and think I'll adjust, you'll adjust and let's keep on going. Love is work, its a daily decision to keep on with someone who's just a human being, complete with flaws. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Old blog, good stuff.
Journal entry: April 5, 2007
I woke up this morning with the sense of a gaping emptiness inside of me. Laying in the darkness, alone in a house full of children, and a bed complete with husband and newborn child I felt loneliness engulfing me. This is not a new experience for me, yet nonetheless I went through the motions like always of trying to explain it away. Should I lay there and cry, mourning the lost opportunities of my life? Call on the telephone my estranged father in California who was never there for me as a child? Seek counseling? Once again I can rationalize each of these instances and why they didn't work before and why they won't work now. I'm a Christian and have been all my life, so why do I feel incomplete? Why and when did this all begin?
Finally realizing that I am losing my battle with insomnia, I get up to take a shower. As the hot water hits my skin I go back in my mind trying to find the beginning of this feeling. From the time I was a little girl I have always dreaded getting up in the morning. For me there was no freshness in the new day, only monotony. I lived for the expectancy of an excitement that might come one day. But was it always this way? Then the image focuses in my mind and my emotions crumble. Could that be it? Might I actually have a reason and a beginning for this achiness inside?
I remember my second grade year waking up in the early hours many mornings to the sounds of busyness outside my window. Looking out to investigate I would see the employees of the mortuary behind my house unloading the hearsts. I will never forget the creepiness and the awful feeling the thought of a dead body puts into the mind of a child. When something is dead the very best you can do with it is dig a hole, cover it up with dirt, put a sign on it so anyone passing by knows that it's there, when it lived and died and its name. Ultimately after all the ceremony you have to walk away. As a child I knew very little of death except that I didn't want it to happen to anyone I knew. It was an ending to something I loved and I would never have it back ever. Now as an adult and having witnessed countless funerals I understand more. The bottom line is you have to walk away and go on. It does not matter that the thing that you're walking away from has somehow grasped a little piece of you down there in that black hole you just covered up.
Looking back, that was the year that my parents split up. For me it was the first death I ever really knew, but naming it and putting a headstone up hasn't been so easy. It wasn't just my parents marriage, it was a certain life I would never know of, a complete family, a relationship with the most important man in a girls life that I would never have. So much was entailed in that funeral I don't know if I have even been able to bury it all. Maybe some parts are still out in the open rotting away.
Conclusion May 24, 2008
Looking at this old journal entry I am so glad I didn't finish it. As I remember, at the time I couldn't, there was no resolution that day. God had begun a revealing of the deadness in my life, a work that still continues. When I tell people what has conspired in my walk with the Lord the past two years, I am amazed myself. In 2007, God taught me that He is not a strict dictator. There is no figuring Him out. He is way too complex and sometimes contradictory. He uses prostitutes, foreigners, Gentiles, shepherd boys and all the most unlikely vessels.
This year I am learning of His great love for me. He cares so much He doesn't want anything to hinder our relationship. He has filled me up so many times with His goodness, but this time He says there is to be nothing else in my cup taking up space that He wants to fill. Emptiness before God is an intense aching. Its like a woman who so desires to be pregnant that its all she can think of. I want to feel His life growing inside of me.
Allow Him to stand at the tomb of your heart and call out all the deadness. He will bring those dead things back to life so you can go forth and proclaim God's goodness. You know when Jesus went to call Lazarus back from the dead He was warned that the body had begun to stink or rot away, but when Jesus brought Lazarus back he was whole. Restoration is a glorious thing.
These are supposed to be my down days, you know postpartum six weeks. Sleeping when the baby sleeps and such. That has never been a luxury I could afford. When there was only one, I relished my quiet time. Then two and three and four and so on and there was no napping because there was always another baby or two to care for and prevent from creating too much mayhem while the baby slept. So, I'm doing my best to create a restful atmosphere for myself during this time instead. Trying hard to not condemn myself for not cleaning everything that has been neglected over the past six months while I was either on bed rest or just too darn big to be able to manage it. Don't get me wrong the house is not in danger of being unsanitary or anything, its just not up to my standards. So I force myself to look the other way, and try to sneak a nap in the recliner.
Life is just too hectic and it never really stops being that way. When times come around that I have an excuse for sitting out from the rat race, I'm gonna take 'em. God's okay with this. He instructs us weekly to take time and sit it out. Otherwise known as the Sabbath Day. He also allots times for just delivered mommies to get to rest and rejuvenate. Those times of "uncleanness" mentioned in the Bible are actually for our benefit. We don't have to entertain, go out, go to church, "minister unto our husbands" and such things during that time. I know some of you are shuddering out there. But hey, I'm good with it. Let me be a recluse for a little while. It allows me more time to spend with my brand new little guy, quiet time with the Lord is more forthcoming, and sometimes I can even snatch a little alone time with the man of my dreams as well. Don't neglect the rest that your God commands. It really is for your best interests.
"'Watch for this! I will collect them from all the countries to which I will have driven them in my anger and rage and indignation. Yes, I'll bring them all back to this place and let them live here in peace. They will be my people, I will be their God. I'll make them of one mind and heart, always honoring me, so that they can live good and whole lives, they and their children after them. What's more, I'll make a covenant with them that will last forever, a covenant to stick with them no matter what, and work for their good. I'll fill their hearts with a deep respect for me so they'll not even think of turning away from me.
"'Oh how I'll rejoice in them! Oh how I'll delight in doing good things for them! Heart and soul, I'll plant them in this country and keep them here!'
"Yes, this is God's Message: 'I will certainly bring this huge catastrophe on this people, but I will also usher in a wonderful life of prosperity. I promise. Fields are going to be bought here again, yes, in this very country that you assume is going to end up desolate—gone to the dogs, unlivable, wrecked by the Babylonians. Yes, people will buy farms again, and legally, with deeds of purchase, sealed documents, proper witnesses—and right here in the territory of Benjamin, and in the area around Jerusalem, around the villages of Judah and the hill country, the Shephelah and the Negev. I will restore everything that was lost.' God's Decree."
Misty's song goes on to say, "How far will you let me go, how bad will you let me be?" How did we get there from the passion and devotion? Well, you can bet the change is on our part, not God's. There He is in Jeremiah pouring out judgments on His beloved people when out of nowhere He lets it slip that He's gonna make it all good in the end. He's really, really mad at the people for turning their backs on Him, and He's gonna let them have what they deserve, but then in His ultimate mercy, there's already a plan in His mind to reconcile. This seems so tender and sweet, like a nice little love story we watch played out on a DVD. But then reality hits and we realize that God actually does this for us, each of us, individually. God loves me, and even when I sit out of the game, I'm still on His radar. When I've done really stupid things that would make anyone else slap me in the face and leave me alone, never talking to me again, He comes back and loves me even better than before. Not because His love has changed, but possibly because I deserve it even less.
I love it because even when I can't be where He is, He comes to me. That seems crazy considering that God is omnipresent and omniscient and omnipotent. But how many times do we think that if we don't congregate on Sunday, we're out of luck? Yet, He's everywhere. Not that we shouldn't gather together as a body, but get real, He's wherever we are and He LOVES us. I absolutely love it when He comes to visit.
I love Fall. It is without a doubt my most favorite season. The cool weather, the gorgeous colors, apple cider and pumpkins. Yes! So with all that said I absolutely love taking our kiddos to the pumpkin patch. Its a memory that I have held dear from my younger days and one that I am so glad I can pass on to my own children. I love it that it never gets old for them. So the older ones don't want to ride on the hay ride with the same gusto they used to, but they don't try to get out of the trip either. This is the one time of year (besides the 4th of July) that I go out and by them special holiday shirts and hair ribbons and such. We all trek to the local farm to check out the animals, ride the wagon, and return with our treasured pumpkins. I love making memories with my babies. Family is awesome.
Another repost from my myspace blog. Hope you like it!
Lately, God has really been impressing on my spirit the idea of cultures. A couple of weeks ago as I was worshipping and feeling like I was getting nowhere, I stopped and looked around. Although I don't want to sound like Elijah, "I'm the only one left Lord!" that's how I felt. Where was the fervency that I felt in my spirit amongst my counterparts. Did anyone else in the room feel like me? When I was in the seventh grade my school suddenly decided that it was only going to go up to the 6th grade. That year my mom had to make the decision to put me into public school. I was tested and found to need placement in the advanced classes. For some reason the principal decided to start me out in general classes, however. That first quarter I attended class with students that were at their level of learning capability and I quickly learned to stoop to seem just like them. Choosing not to raise my hand with the correct answer and even purposely spelling words wrong because I didn't want to stand out. The very next quarter they moved me to the honors class. Finally I could stretch again feeling challenged by those around me to reach towards my full and unadulterated potential. What a difference my environment made.
This past week I went to a conference on healing. Boy was the environment different. Everyone was moving in rhythm with God's spirit and each had the motive to touch His heart and see His face. I found myself looking around a lot. Suddenly I realized that I wasn't alone, others wanted Him as much or more than I do. This was a different place, not a better one, just different.
So I have been drawn to what exactly is the difference? The culture is unique, the environment unusual to me. I had been placed in a different petri dish, so to speak. You know I found that in order for a scientist to separate a single cell from its surroundings, he must first dissolve the matrix keeping the cell in place. Those things that the cell clings to for support. This is not an easy process, if you want the cell to survive. Finally, with some gentle agitation the cell is free. It is then placed into an environment rich in the particulars necessary for that cell's needs. Then it begins to reproduce cells of like character and manner. But even on its own the cell maintains it prior function or purpose. My prayer is that God successfully reproduce the culture that He desires through my life.
We have identified ourselves as pioneers, trailblazers if you will. Our life motto might be best reflected with the immortal words of Captain James T. Kirk, "...to boldly go where no man has gone before." This is a tough calling to pull off, you know. You find yourself having a hard time finding people who understand you, most just think you're crazy. You hear things like, "It will pass, you're just going through a phase." No, no, this isn't a phase. I have been given a mandate to carry out an amazing work in my city. God called me to go out from where He will no longer allow me to be comfortable, to do a new thing. Pioneers live in covered wagons, and tents, and caves. They are nomads searching for the promised land. They fill the pages of our history books. The Bible is full of them, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, even David. That's not crazy, that's God-inspired movement into a new realm. Ushering in the things of His kingdom even when people don't see what He's doing and they call you a troublemaker. Paul understood this.
Acts 18:9-11 One night the Master spoke to Paul in a dream: "Keep it up, and don't let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens, I'm with you and no one is going to be able to hurt you. You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city." That was all he needed to stick it out. He stayed another year and a half, faithfully teaching the Word of God to the Corinthians.You know sometimes all you've got is God on your side, but that's more than enough to get the job done.
Eat this and like it!
He's a really good baby. Only cries when there's an issue, like hunger or diaper attention needed. He doesn't even spit up, he just wants to eat and snuggle. I love it. He reminds me alot of his big brother in his temperament and makes me once again realize how great God is in his placement of children in our home. I promise you Tony was an amazing baby, I know he'd love to know that I'm relaying that to the internet world.
When Rebecca was born she was a little more difficult, not bad, she just got into things and made fun messes for me to pick up. She's still like that by the way.
Serena made me wonder if I really wanted to ever have any more children or even babysit other's children. Oh my gosh, she was a handful. Always eating or crying or throwing up. Repeat cycle.
Then Taylor in her mellowness redeemed the world of babies to me.
Emari has a little of Serena's personality but not with all the messy results. She gets into things, but apologizes afterwards.
2 Thessalonians 1: 11-12 Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he's called you to be, pray that he'll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely.
Okay, since its Columbus Day and all, I decided to be lazy once more and post an old blog. Hope you guys don't hate me but this one always gets me even though I wrote it.
You know whenever I have been to a concert or theatrical production I have always found myself envious of those seated in the front row. I wonder, how much did they have to pay for those seats? Lucky! Still sometimes I think that people feel the same way about those seated in the front row at church. Lucky! But what price paid for that seat? While the payment is definitely not in monetary terms the price tag is still a hefty one. Responsibility and accountability are main stays. At times life as I view it from the front row can become overwhelming and exhausting. How do I live for God, and at the same time keep man happy with me? The effort can be almost too much. Yet as I have been delving in to my daily devotions and seeking God's advice through my other reading I find that when it gets tough God is still right there. With His favor does come scrutiny, yet His divine Hand in my life is unmistakable. Leadership is most times not all it is cracked up to be and the public can be merciless. Maturity says that we stand firm no matter what the obstacle, no matter what the crowd does or says. In one breath they may want to shower you with blessings and then with another they may tear you to pieces with their words.
"In the evening his disciples went down to the sea, got in the boat, and headed back across the water to Capernaum. It had grown quite dark and Jesus had not yet returned. A huge wind blew up, churning the sea. They were maybe three or four miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, quite near the boat. They were scared senseless, but he reassured them, "It's me. It's all right. Don't be afraid." So they took him on board. In no time they reached land—the exact spot they were headed to."
I love this scripture because it is just one more instance when the seas rose up around the disciples and Jesus comes along and makes it all okay. They even reached the place they had originally headed towards. How many times have I found myself in this exact predicament and when it was all said and done I looked around and said "Hey, it was rough sailing there for awhile but look I made it! Thank you God!" Just remember the crowd's opinion of you may change, but God's opinion is what matters.
We decided not to make a decision about how many we were going to have. Over our baby making journey we've found varying responses to our fruitfulness. Babies 1, 2, and 3 came to us with little problem or major response from others. Its about when we hit number four that it all started. I remember being afraid to tell my mom. Not that she had ever acted anything other than completely overjoyed at our announcements, but for some reason I was embarrassed. At the time we were serving as missionaries in the Dominican Republic and staying with a family that had five children. The mother told me that she had experienced the same thing with number four and five. It made me feel a little better to know I wasn't the only one, and when I called my mom, she just laughed at me. Her joy was infectious. With five and six we learned to just drive on and let em have it. Josh's dad actually gets a little excited when we tell him we have an announcement to make. He always thinks its a new baby.
Our family has always been extremely supportive of our large family, but the public at large is what sometimes gets to us. We hear comments like, "You do know what causes that, right?" and "They're all yours?!" I personally like the, "But you look too young to have so many children!" comment to which I always like to respond, "Well we are." Its not like I woke up one morning and thought, "You know I want to have truckloads of babies and spend my time changing diapers and cleaning up messes and fielding questions from curious onlookers." It really just happened, yes I do know how it happens. But we allowed it to if you will. We allowed the Lord to bless us with the children He has given us. I know that the return is going to be greater than any investment I have put in.
Don't you see that children are God's best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior's fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don't stand a chance against you;
you'll sweep them right off your doorstep.
So our Smoky Mountain adventure is drawing to a close and I have almost survived Josh’s first attempt at writing a book. We have so much alone time it’s almost nerve-wracking. I don’t know what to do with my time. That’s a good thing though. So Emari and I went on a walk in the woods today. We started out at the park visitor center. The hike was described as an easy 45 minute hike with a few steep hills. With that depiction I decided to keep the baby in her stroller. It was beautiful. A little rainy but it made the forest seem more magical. The road was easy going until we hit the first bridge, pick up the stroller and roll on. Then another bridge. Okay, let’s keep going. Then the hill got really steep, no big deal. Except for the fact that I seem to have purchased the only stroller known to mankind to have a heat seeking device which causes it to search out and get tangled in every exposed root on the trail. With much struggling and strength of will, I reached the top. All along, Emari was singing and reaching out for little branches that crossed her path. She only fussed when I stopped at the crest of the hill to catch my breath. Finally we reached a cabin with some other people. I busied myself with pretending to read my trail guide. I didn’t want them to think I was stupid for pushing a stroller up that mountainside.
It was then that the thoughts came, should I turn back now? What if the next hills were even steeper? What if there were more people who would look at me like I was crazy? I knew the road that led back. Then I heard the Voice. Amber, this is like your life. What? That’s it I’m pressing onward. The voice kept on. The road is sometimes steep, there are times that you will be pushing others onward, people who really don’t even understand your sacrifice or the effort behind your struggle. There will be those along the way that don’t see why you even bother coming this way, with all that you’re bringing along with you. So I pushed forward, more resolutely seeking the end of the trail. Along the way I stopped to read my guide and saw these words, "Perhaps the wonder of creation is most apparent in the small things at our feet." Wow, God! Are you talking to me? Had I gotten caught up in the struggle and failed to see the beauty that was around me? Like my Joshua says, "You’ve got one life, one chance at it. Live!"
How much do we miss about God by complaining about the way. Even in the struggle, there was so much beauty surrounding me and Emari. She could see it from her vantage point, but I was distracted. As we neared the end of our trek in the woods we came upon some turkeys. It was so amazing to see them up close and in the wild. God is so perfect in His revealing to us about Himself. When the distractions had been removed I could see His hand leading me. I know for me it is so easy to get caught up in the life, that I fail to really live.
Revelation 12:11 says,
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Now I usually don't share publicly on personal struggles that we encounter in our home, but I knew that I could not leave this one unspoken. I cannot be silent in what miracles my Father has done for me in this year. As a couple my husband and I, not to mention our children, overcame and so we must provide the word of that testimony to whosoever will. Anyway, I began this blog out of the need for a creative outlet some months ago. You see for the first time ever I was having trouble with a pregnancy. My doctor had me on bedrest and I was going insane. Let's back up a little bit and say that I have never had any troubles with birthin' young uns. My OB actually referred to me as a "baby machine." I took it as a compliment from a professional. AS soon as we announced that we were pregnant the prophetic words started rolling in. This was one special baby.
Everything was going just fine until early one morning 13 weeks into the pregnancy I got up as normal to use the bathroom. A frequent occurrence, but this time I found myself in a pool of blood. I don't mean just a little bit, I mean I looked down and there was a puddle on the floor of the bathroom. In shock I called to my husband and jumped into the shower to rinse off. He came in and like he always does in an emergency, stayed calm and went right to work cleaning up my mess. We didn't talk, we didn't need to. There was no question about what was going on. I just sat on the floor of the shower and cried out to the only One I could. Thinking things like, "How could this happen to me?" and "My baby is gone." as I prayed for strength. So I finally told my husband that I didn't want to go the hospital and we just went to bed. Didn't get any sleep at all, because of course, we just laid there silently asking God what was going on?
In my mind I was whisked back to a time long ago when I was praying as a young girl after finding out that all the women in my family had experienced multiple miscarriages. I wanted to be different and break that curse, so I began entreating God early. Add to that all the words we had received concerning this baby. I reminded Him of that, but I heard nothing from Him. All I had was a fleeting vision of my tiny baby and God holding him in His hand. What did that mean? Was He trying to tell me that my baby was gone but present with the Lord, or could I dare to hope that God was letting me know that He was protected and safe? The next morning I called my mama, because sometimes you just have to talk to mamma. Between her and my husband I finally agreed to go to the doctor. I sat in the waiting room with all those pregnant women and just felt all dead inside and mad at God. Yeah, I had five other babies at home, but I didn't want to lose any of my babies.
The doctor called us back and after checking me and hearing my account of what happened, decided that it looked like a miscarriage. She sent us back for an ultrasound to confirm. Again, I was just numb of all feeling. The tech came in and I couldn't bear to look at the screen. I looked to my husband for strength and his face seemed odd to me. He was smiling. Thinking he was really insane with grief until he said,"Baby you've got to look. He's still there, and he's alive!" Oh my gosh. We cried and cried. The doctor decided that I had a condition called placenta previa and sent me home on bedrest. Crisis averted. Now throughout the pregnancy there were other close calls and shake downs, but the big one was right there at the beginning. You see, Josh and I were really believing that since this baby coincided with the birth of our church plant that he was symbolic of what was going on in the spirit realm. He was even named Zion for a reason.
When we began on this journey to start a new work in Fayetteville, we were having prayer meetings with our youth group every Monday night. These were intense meetings and one night one of the girls began praying Isaiah 62. It became our hearts cry for our city. For a few years now we've been reading through the Bible as a group with a schedule. What's really cool is that on our Zion's birthday the scripture reading for the day was:
Regarding Zion, I can't keep my mouth shut, regarding Jerusalem, I can't hold my tongue,
Until her righteousness blazes down like the sun
and her salvation flames up like a torch.
Foreign countries will see your righteousness,
and world leaders your glory.
You'll get a brand-new name
straight from the mouth of God.
You'll be a stunning crown in the palm of God's hand,
a jeweled gold cup held high in the hand of your God.
No more will anyone call you Rejected,
and your country will no more be called Ruined.
You'll be called Hephzibah (My Delight),
and your land Beulah (Married),
Because God delights in you
and your land will be like a wedding celebration.
For as a young man marries his virgin bride,
so your builder marries you,
And as a bridegroom is happy in his bride,
so your God is happy with you.
To me that was my God confirming to me that this process had come full circle. We made it through, in shaky times and in celebration. Thank you God for standing with us in tribulation!
I was raised in church, third generation to be precise. Dedicated as an infant in the flowy white gown with all the pomp a good Pentecostal girl should have. Sunday school, Christian school, summer camp, convention, you name it I was in attendance. My grandma was on every committee and board, a real pillar. My mom taught Sunday School and even set up the communion table a time or two. I've been seeped in this thing since the womb. Our Sunday morning dressing routine included fancy dress, hose, and shoes that clicked when you walked through the foyer. I had play dresses and church dresses in my closet and it was on Saturday night having my hair rolled for Sunday morning service that I was told, "Beauty is pain." Sacrifice begins young.
Okay, fast forward, now I'm all grown up and married to a pastor. Most people realize that now the stakes are even higher. How does a pastor's wife dress for church? Man I struggle with that one. A few years back it all came to a screeching halt when I found myself in an intense crisis of faith. (no, it wasn't over how to dress for church) I had some serious issues to work through and crucial questions for God. It started to be difficult to get up and go to church on Sunday mornings. My heart was broken, my spirit crushed and standing there looking at my Sunday best, I felt like I was picking out a costume. Dressing to impress became a struggle. I wanted God to take me and make me whole again, not put on a mask and parade in front of the church congregation like everything was fine. My insides felt like rags, but I was expected to wear finery. "By whom?" I asked. Is that what God required of me, or did He simply want me?
Even now, there's an unsettling between the traditionals, who say we honor God when we come to Him in our best, and the contemporaries, who believe that God meets us where we're at. Its confusing. I mean God is my King, but my Friend. The Creator of all that is, but my Father. Seemingly contrasting ideas, but God cannot be put in a box, or described with mere words. His expectations have always been that we give Him our best, but not in a showy, outer appearance sort of way. His eyes throw aside the trappings we disguise ourselves in and cut deep to our heart motivations. We subscribe to certain avenues of belief to conceal our "inside" issues. Ripped jeans and Easter hats can be equally dishonoring to Him if used as a disguise. He wants us to come to Him in honesty and purity of heart.
Colossians 3:9-14 says, Don't lie to one another. You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Sounds like the way to dress to impress God has nothing at all to do with what is hanging on this outer shell we call a body. Let's stop stressing so much over the things that will pass and lift our eyes up to what really matters.