Lessons from a Bouncy Seat

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To you, it looks like an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, gender neutral bouncy seat.

To me, it looks like a flood of emotion and memories of tiny little babies wrapped snugly in blankets, holding my entire heart in their pudgy little fingers.

The price tag on all of that? $7.00 in my pocket.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Colossians 3:2

I get it, y’all. I’m not illogical. It will be twenty-ish years before my babies have babies. It is taking up prime real estate in the garage, where I could store more plastic pieces of emotion. It doesn’t make sense to keep it.

But, as I clean it up, write my consignor number in heavy black Sharpie, and affix the string tag that holds the price of my memories, a little piece of my heart is breaking. It’s final. This is for real. I’m tearing up as I write this, y’all. There will be no more babies in this house.

The tying of my tubes after baby number 3? That was stone cold real, and my heart hurt for a long while. To be honest, it still does a little. But, I didn’t have to physically let go of anything.  I wasn’t holding it in my hands, and setting it free. It didn’t have a price tag!

All the years of praying. All the tears. All the questions. All the positive pregnancy tests and empty ultrasound screens. All the prayers, prayed over swollen stomachs and full wombs. The hospital treks and nervous ORs. It’s all done. We are done. No more babies.

Now, when my logical mind gets ahold of this, it’s perfectly ok with me. Y’all. If it were up to Satan and his schemes to stop the will of God, I would have no babies. And yet, I have THREE! Three beautiful, perfect recreations of an amazing Creator, that live in my home and bless my life daily. I am thankful. If that’s all I ever have, that is enough.

We are getting older. Closer to old age. With older age, there are higher risks involved, to an already extremely high-risk situation. Medically, why would I tempt fate?

We are financially strapped. Three kids cost a lot, y’all. There are no leftovers at dinner anymore. It takes 2 packages of most every grocery to make a meal. All the extracurriculars! The bats and gloves and dance shoes and fees! Not to mention, private school tuition for three! Truly, I cannot afford another one, even if we wanted!

Our car will not even hold another person, y’all! I have three car seats across the back, and no third row. Where would I even put another baby?!!

Now, hear me out! I’m not saying that I don’t have a heavenly Provider that could handle all these details with the drop of a hat! He could, no doubt in my mind. But at some point we have to let go of the knob, and let Him close the door, y’all.

When I physically hang on to all the things….well, I haven’t closed the door in my mind. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

It’s time, my friends. And as I sit here and tell you all of this, my brain is wrapping around the next season and envisioning it with the pretty little bow that God intended.

Having an almost 7 year old? It’s fun, guys! To see his personality emerge. He is becoming who God created him to be. And I have a front row seat. He is quirky, and funny, and smart. The look of excitement and love in his eyes when he looks at me makes my heart smile.

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Seeing my 4 year old love so big. Seeing him navigate the world of emotion and decisions and even disappointment…it’s amazing. I study his features, in the moments when he’s still, and I see how intricately perfect God created him. The one that survived my womb. He is a fighter, in so many ways!

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Seeing the baby, and how her world is consumed by her brothers. She would follow them to the ends of the earth. She thinks they are the best things since strawberries and cheese balls, y’all. She is just like her Daddy! We made that, y’all. Us and Him, we did it! She’s the finale!

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And as emotional as I am, when I think about that bouncer not sitting idly by in our garage any longer…I have peace in knowing that it’s time for my next season. I’m not a Mama of newborns any longer. I came, I saw, I did that. I was blessed with that opportunity. I loved {almost} every single minute of it, even on the hardest days. That’s the thing about infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss – the gravity of the best days and  the hardest days are never lost on you.

Now, it’s time to get excited about this next season. The one where my garage is filled with outgrown toys and sports equipment and maybe even a ballet barre.

That bouncer? I pray it holds for some young family as much love and laughter and promise of His promise, that it held for ours. Now that I type this, that sounds like a great prayer to pray over it, before I send it off along it’s way.

And my God…He’s so faithful, y’all. He will guide me through this season, just like He did that one. My prayer for myself, JW, and this entire house, is that we slow down enough to treasure it, the same way we did the last one. And when it’s time to sell the next set of emotional plastic contraptions, may I have the strength to let them go and embrace what’s coming.

What do you need to embrace, friends?

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 2a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-6

 

Jesus Moved . Jesús se movió

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whosoever shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”
Matthew 18:2-5 KJV

These verses in the Bible were ones that I thought I understood for a very long time. I can now say that I only partially understood them. The past week spent in Guatemala has changed my life. I have been there before, and it truly impacted my life on that trip as well — but not like this one. When Pastor Bryan first approached me about taking Bryce on a mission trip, I wasn’t sure if he was ready. Leslie and I prayed about it, and something(One) told us he should go. Well from the very start of the trip, Bryce took the reins and never looked back.
After arriving Friday and settling in at camp, we went out to two villages to invite fathers and their children to an event we were holding the following day. After Bryce watched me speak to the first dad, he and his buddy, Greyson, then took over and invited two villages of people to come celebrate with us. 
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While we walked around, I got a treat and ran into my friend Brian (nicknamed Miguel). He is an amazing kid that I met the last time I was there. I had hoped to get to see him again one day, and getting to do so really touched my heart. I will always pray that one day I can sponsor him.

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Once we finished passing out flyers on Friday, all we could do is wait and see who showed up Saturday. As the Bible says in Isaiah 45, “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:”. And that’s exactly what happened! We had over fifteen dads take off work & show up with their kids on Saturday!
Bryce helped with crafts and making sure the kids enjoyed the games we had for them. He found a couple good friends that day also— Jonathan and Carlos. He formed a bond with them stronger than anything I’ve seen, and they couldn’t even speak the same language! At the end of the day, we said our goodbyes and it was time to wind down.
We woke up Sunday morning and made the hour and a half drive back to Guatemala City to have church at Sembodoras Church. While there, Bryce and I got to teach a Sunday school class with two other team members. We had crafts that connected the kids to Jesus, and really got them involved. Then, something began to shift– Bryce made his first bold move for God. He sang “Jesus Loves Me” to the Sunday school class of 7-15 year olds in Spanish. After he sang it to them, he sang it again with them!
After church, we had lunch and then headed to do a couple house visits. The first went well- we prayed for protection and health for a family, and gave them a gift basket full of things they truly needed. Then we jumped on the bus and went to a family’s house that had attended our father/child day on Saturday. After giving them a basket as well, Mrs. Leeanne prayed for the grandmother that had Parkinson’s Disease. Right before we left, I experienced a moment that could be only from God — the moment when the trip started having a different meaning for me. Bryce voluntarily asked if he could sing “Jesus Loves Me” to this grandmother. As he sang it in Spanish to her, she mouthed the words and tried to sing it along with him. 
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When he finished singing, the grandmother hugged him for about 5 minutes… it was such a beautiful moment. Seeing your child make such a bold move (for them) for Jesus is indescribable.

After this visit, we headed back to the camp to prepare for the next day. Monday was—- let me hear it…. VOLCANO DAY!!!!! Yes, the day had come where we got to hike to the volcano and collect some lava rocks to bring home. Definitely a highlight for the boys. They loved it! 
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After a long hike back from the volcano, we finally made it back to camp. Us grownups were T.I.R.E.D! That afternoon, we went to the San Pedreros village for another great day of hanging with the village kids and doing crafts & Bible stories with them. We acted out the story of the Good Samaritan from the Bible. I got to “beat” Bryce up!! This was a fun time, and the kiddos really enjoyed our acting & learning the story. 

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While there, we were able to install an oven in a home, which would help the family be able to breath fresh air while they cooked. This is a big thing in the villages because so many get sick from their homemade ovens that do not vent out of the kitchen. This was a cool learning experience for the kids, how differently things are from back home. 

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Tuesday started out at a home in the Veramina Village, putting another oven in a kitchen for a little girl’s family that Pastor Bryan and Mrs. Leeanne have been sponsoring for several years. Mrs. Leeanne even led this little girl to Jesus on a previous trip.
While there, we met Abner— the cutest little boy in Guatemala. We will be sponsoring him in about a month, once he is set up in the Clubhouse Guatemala program.
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After finishing the oven, we headed out to make some home visits in a village where there was a strong enemy presence. As we walked, we prayed over the ground we were walking on. This was a very moving experience that I had never actually encountered before. I handed Bryce my phone, and he read Scripture and spoke it over the village as he walked. 

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 KJV
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After this, we went back to the village church and led the kids in more crafts & worship. Bryce got to be a worship leader, and did great! We also played out the story of Meshack, Shadrack, and Abednego, and how they survived the fiery furnace. The kids absolutely loved this story, and the acting was great to help teach it.

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The last day, we had a fun day in Antigua. We shopped and toured a coffee plantation. It was nice getting to just let loose and shop for souvenirs for back home.
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So, to get back to the very first part of this story— Bryce Brookshire stepped out in a way this week that I can only imagine doing. He constantly pushed himself into uncomfortable situations, where he knew God would get the glory for what he was doing. He was unashamed of the gospel.

So when the Bible says have a child-like faith, I truly got to see what He meant this week. Thank you, Father, for granting us this opportunity to serve You. We give You all the glory for this trip. 

“For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:”
Psalms 78:5-7 KJV
 
There is so much of this I know I’ve left out, like the great cooking and how awesome our translators were. But I’m not a writer, and even writing the little bit I did is a major accomplishment- so I’ll leave it at this! Thanks for reading!
-JW
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Peace in the Waiting

I’ve been meaning to get back to blogging for a while now. I guess you could say I’ve been putting it off. Excuses like there not being enough time, or not knowing what to say…they’re just that. Excuses.

The reality of the matter is that I may not have felt adequate to share with you for a while. I almost feel guilty. Life is good. 11 days ago I gave birth to the most beautiful, perfect little girl that I’ve ever laid eyes on. I spent the last 38 weeks feeling her grow & move inside of me, loving her a little more & more every day, and then heard the most perfect cry imaginable when she finally entered this world. God gave me the desires of my heart. Again. So, why do I have so many friends that are still in the waiting?

I don’t know. 

Since giving birth, I’ve spent the last week quarantined to either my house or a hospital room. I was diagnosed with Type B flu and slight pneumonia in both lungs, onset 5 days post-partum. I’ve had a lot of time to think. It’s had me down, particularly mentally and emotionally, I’m not going to lie. I’ve cried quite a few angry tears. Why me, and why now? Why do my babies have to be exposed to this? Especially my newborn? Why do I have to be stuck wearing a mask & gloves around my own home? When can I kiss my babies? When will I be able to go in public again? Why is just running to the grocery store such a big deal now? Then, today, it occurred to me. He is slowing you down, Leslie. He’s making you take time…for HIM. And as I was thinking and praying about what exactly it is that God wants me to say here, I just kept getting the words “You have peace”.

Yes, but what do you want me to say about that, God?! *insert my selfish little eye roll here*  I have peace. Yes. I have a great, hard-working husband, a nice home, three amazing kids, the coolest job. Why wouldn’t I have peace? Then He tells me…no. You have peace.

Some days, it doesn’t feel fair to me, that I get to experience this and others want to so badly. I’ve been there…in the wanting. In the waiting.  I’ve been you, sweet friend. Looking at me, seeing my babies. Seeing my life, that from the outside looking in, seems so imperfectly perfect. Seeing me lug in an infant carrier with a screaming toddler trailing behind. Seeing my 5 year old bound in, full-throttle, as I try to hold it all together and keep eyes on everyone. It’s a chaos that you long for. I’ve had the same longing in my eyes. It’s not that you aren’t happy for me. You are. It’s not that you think I’m undeserving, or that you’d ever wish it any other way. But, you just want it too. You don’t want to be jealous or envious, but it’s  a daily struggle to overcome those feelings. You can’t understand the when and the why. It should surely be your turn by now.

Have peace.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”  Isaiah 26:3

I don’t have the answers, friend. I wish I did. Oh, how desperately I wish I did. But, please remember that in the waiting, He is there. In the wanting…in the longing…He is there. In the empty arms and empty hearts and empty wombs, He is THERE. I didn’t always know this, and it’s why I want to be so sure that someone says it to you today. You probably already know. But, you know how sometimes, you just need to hear someone say it to you? He’s there, friend. He’s with you. Every step. Every test. Every positive, every negative, every minute.

It’s so hard to just “keep on keeping on”. I know it is. When you’re surrounded by happy couples and beautiful babies and success stories. I wish I could tell you that I knew His plans for you, and I could tell you with certainty that it involved you holding your own precious child in your arms one day soon. I pray it does.

But, in the meantime, in the waiting…peace. During both of my C-sections, I’ve repeated Isaiah 26:3 over & over in my head countless times. Keeping my mind STAYED on HIM. Trusting Him. And He always delivers with His perfect peace.

I’m doing a little waiting of my own over here today…waiting on fever to break. Waiting on my 24 hours fever-free to arrive, so that I can enjoy sunshine, and kids, and ballgames again. It’s flustering. It’s a hard time of waiting. But I must keep my mind on Him. I must trust that He has a plan in this. I must trust that He’s protecting me from, or preparing me for, something. HIS way. HIS timing.

That’s what I pray for you today. Keep your eyes focused on Him. Keep trusting that He has a PLAN. Not just a solution, not even just possibly a baby (or a cure, or a diagnosis, or whatever your prayer may be)…but a PLAN. It’s so much bigger than just getting the desires of our heart. That is sweet, and exciting, and indescribable…but the bigger picture? The part where He’s working it all together for the good of those that love Him? The point where your hopes & dreams collide with His purpose? THAT is where the peace is, friends. THAT. Pray for THAT. 

 

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Falling in Love

“Cause all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet
And love has set me free”

This line is from a popular song, sung by Jason Gray, called “More Like Falling in Love”.  On the way to drop my oldest off at preschool this morning, we had a little praise & worship session in the car. We played some of their favorite songs, and as I watched them sing at the top of their lungs and raise their hands in worship, the words “falling in love with Jesus” kept washing over my mind. I knew I’d heard a song with that line plenty of times, but didn’t know the exact title- only some lines. So, I looked it up…and man, did God use that to change my morning.

I listened to that song the entire way home. And it was like a revelation to me. Y’all. Our relationship…our Christian walk…it truly does have to be more like falling in love, than just church & prayers & hope.

If you’re currently married, or have been in a truly loving relationship…or even if you know the ideology of one…think about that for a minute. My husband. I love him with a fierce love. Sure, there are plenty of times that I don’t like his decisions, or things he says, or ways he acts. Sure, there are moments that I feel let down by him, or days that I’m disappointed. But, at the end of each and every day, I love him. With a deep love. Marital love is a love that says “You know what? We won’t always necessarily agree. But we agree to love each other.” At the end of the day, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do for him. I love him in all his faults, in all his great days and bad ones.

And that is how Jesus wants our relationship with Him to look and feel. Like being in love. Aren’t we the bride of Christ, after all?

Sure, it’s easy to pray because you know you should. It’s easy to tithe, because you know it’s right. It’s easy to read your Bible, go to church, and even talk about God…because you know that’s what He wants us to do. We talk the talk, and walk the walk. But, do you do it out of obligation? Do you do it out of habit? Or because you are in love with Him?

“It’s gotta be more like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance”

Believe in Him. But, don’t just believe in Him!!

I mean, when you’re newly and deeply in love with someone, you can’t stop talking about them. Can’t stop thinking about them. You want to be with them. You crave their conversation, their touch, their relationship with you.

“More like losing my heart“– Do you know that feeling? Like your heart is walking around outside your body? Your spouse, or significant other. Your kids. If anything happened to them, how your world would crumble. What tragedy your life would feel like, if you lost them. Pieces of your heart, walking around outside your body. That’s love. And that’s how He loves us.

Religion has tried to make God about allegiance. Relationship makes God about your heart.

“I need more than a truth to believe
I need a Truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet”

Religion has made it about the rules and words and obligations. Jesus- He never wanted it to be about that. He wants it to be about love. He wants us to be as in love with Him, as He is with us. Jesus was real. He IS real.

God loves us, y’all. He gave up his only Son for us. He forgives us for every single, solitary wrongdoing, every single feeling, every single doubt. He provides for us, takes care of us, watches out for us. Really, really, really and truly loves us.

Think about when you look in your kids’ eyes- the pure, unadulterated love that you have for them. Nothing they could ever do, could make you love them less. That is how deeply He loves us. He’s in love with us, y’all! Get excited about that!!!

Can we think of Him like a spouse? Like someone that we don’t want to let down, because we love Him so much. Like someone that we would go to the ends of the earth for, because we love Him so much. That’s how He thinks of us, after all.

I can’t explain my love for my husband. I mean, I can tell you qualities that I love about him. I can tell you things he has done that make me happy, or proud, or even make me like him a little more. But, I can’t really put into words the depth or width of my love for him. Because it just is. I love him, even when I don’t necessarily like him. It’s years and years of togetherness. Years and years of commitment. Love. Just because love. Even if you don’t have that kind of love with a husband– let JESUS love you like that!

And that is how Jesus wants our love relationship to be with Him. Unexplainable love. Happy love. Giddy love. Unconditional love. Love that, even when you don’t necessarily like the season He has you in, you still love Him for who He is.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

I truly hope I’m not rambling with this post, y’all. But I got so excited thinking about this, that I just needed to share it with you. It gave me a whole new perspective on relationship.

If you’re struggling. If you’re feeling like your prayers are hitting the ceiling. If you feel disconnected- try thinking about Him in a different light today.

It’s been a lot of years since I’ve dated. I haven’t had to let myself fall in love with anyone in a very long time. But, I can vaguely remember back to the walls you build. No one wants their heart broken. We all tend to go into relationships guarded- self preserving. We want to fall in love, in theory. But, there’s a certain amount of letting go that has to take place.

There’s nothing you can ever, ever do to stop Him from loving you. Accept that. Tell yourself that. Know it. Isn’t it a great feeling, knowing someone loves you for you?

Allow yourself to fall in love with Him. And watch your world change.

A Word for the New Year

In the past week, I’ve had two friends pose an idea via social media. At the end of your year, prayerfully choose a single word that you hope will define your next year. Then, use this word as a declaration over your life in that year. Pray on it, study it, speak it over your life. One friend did this for herself personally, the other chose a word as a family. The minute I heard this idea, I knew we needed this for our 2017.

I’ve seen so many good “words” that sweet friends will be claiming this year. Renewal. Fulfillment. Acceptance. Discipline. Transformation. I’ll provide a link at the end of this post to a dear friends’ blog, where she also discusses her word for 2017.

I read the first friends’ post on New Years Eve. I hadn’t even posed the idea to my husband yet, when a word came to my mind during our New Years Eve church service. I knew this word was for me. And, when I later voiced the idea to my husband that we do this as a family, he agreed that this was the perfect word for our 2017.

growth

GROWTH.

I, as a person, and we, as a family, want…and need…to grow in so many ways in this coming year. First and foremost, spiritually. There is obviously always room for growth in our walk with the Lord. That’s a given. But, individually and as a couple, our household has become what feels a little stagnant. We faced some hard things in 2016- big, faith challenging things. Things that rocked us a little. Some of our spiritual mentors became less present in our lives. Our faith wavered a little. Gods’ promises didn’t pan out the way we thought they would. Our faith was on trial, and I, for one, could feel it. We pray to grow closer to God than ever before in the coming year. We pray to be more intentional in our time spent with the Lord. We pray for clearer understanding of His Word and His purposes for us. We pray for our salt to regain its’ flavor this year. We need spiritual growth.

Personally, I have a longing for growth in my purpose and His annointings on my life. I want to be certain, without a doubt, that I’m walking in the calling He has for me. This has been on my heart for some time now. But, with all the roles I’m called to fill in this season of my life, it’s challenging to grow in some areas- this area in particular. I need to be more intentional in doing– putting into practice- what God has told me to do. Write. See…….I’m so hesitant to share this. But, maybe if I share it here, I’ll have more accountability. Only a small handful of really close friends know what God really told me to do a couple years ago. A couple YEARS, I’ve been putting Him off, y’all! And these ladies are good at reminding me. But, I haven’t held up my end & been intentional in doing it. I need to grow here!There are two things in my life that I have been 110%, absolutely certain that God spoke directly to me & told me to do. One was to not take the medicine that would, in turn, bring a successful pregnancy to fruition. Thank you, Lord! The second- He told me to write a book. I need intentionality, growth within myself and my calling, to do this. I mean, I don’t know the first thing about writing- much less writing a book! Oh man, do I need growth in wisdom, knowledge…so many things!  2017 is the year.

Our family is praying for financial growth this year. We ended this past year with a desire and driving effort to pay down debt, be more intentional and guarded in our spending, and be better stewards of what the Lord has given us. We are praying for growth not necessarily just in finances (although that would surely be nice!), but in our wisdom of stewardship over them.

As a family, we would like to see growth in relationships. Those within our household, as well as outside of it. We would like to see growth in our careers, and certainty that we’re walking in His purpose in them. We pray for growth in our church, its membership and leadership. We pray for spiritual growth within our city. I pray for growth in compassion within myself.

Lastly, we pray that the Lord would allow us to see physical growth in our family in 2017. Yes, physical…as in, a baby. We are prayerful, we have faith, we have expectation, and we will be claiming this in 2017. We understand that His plans are perfect, but this is our hope.

These are some of the ways we hope to see GROWTH in the coming year. I’m certain that God will go above & beyond our expectations. I’m sure that He will show us growth in ways that we can’t even think of or expect right now. I’m excited to see how He will use this word in our life this year!!

When I look up the word Growth, the synonyms are “development” and “maturation” and “blooming”. And that! That is absolutely perfect for what I hope for myself and my family this year.

And now, I challenge you. Whether you choose to do this individually or as a family, pray that the Lord will show you a word for you this year. Let it be your motto this year. Pray that God will bring it to your mind often. Pray that He will bring it to fruition in your life. Study it. Meditate on it. Find verses about it. Seek it. And let God do the rest.

Here are some verses & promises from His Word about growth that I’ve found recently.

“For now I have chosen and consecrated this house, that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” – 2 Chronicles 7:16

“Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”- 2 Corinthians 9:10

“but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head- Christ” -Ephesians 4:15

“that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” -Colossians 1:10

“but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” -2 Peter 3:18

If you’d like to read about my friends’ word, and how she will be seeking Renewal this year, check out her blog at Momma Needs A Minute {Renewal Post}.

Have a blessed 2017, friends!!

 

 

 

 

 

Eyes Wide Open

Here’s the thing. I’m not really sure where to start with this. But, if there’s anything I’ve learned in this spiritual walk of mine, it’s that God  wants me telling our story. Whether happy or tearful, He wants me to be transparent. Because I can’t let other people find healing in my wounds, if they can’t see inside the deepest of my hurts.

Last Thursday, we heard those three little words again- for the ninth time, now. “I’m so sorry”. It was all there. A round little sac, a kidney-bean shaped little human in pure black & white, with perfect little nubs where arms & legs had begun to form. But one thing was missing -the precious little flicker that said his heart was still beating. It had been there. And then it wasn’t. We’ve been around this block a few times- there was no need to tell us. We didn’t need a doctor to confirm it. We knew immediately.

And as I initially typed these words, I lay there on my couch waiting for the contractions to start. I was waiting for my body to prepare to rid itself of the promise of this perfect little life. It’s a little life that held hopes & dreams. It’s a sweet little life that’s hanging on to me with all it’s got. Still. It’s almost as if he has sweet little hands dug into my innermost parts, hanging on to his Mommy for safety sake. I want to protect him. I want to protect myself from all of this, too.  I’ve taken two rounds now, of the highest dosage of medicine, trying to induce the inevitable. He’s trying to hang on. God love him.

“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit”  -Psalm 34:18

It would be so easy for me to be bitter. Angry. Doubtful. In a way, I almost feel like I deserve to get to be bitter. Because this time, I know God’s promises for me. I’ve seen His goodness. I’ve seen Him perform the impossible. I’ve held Him to His word, and watched Him deliver my baby, healthy and unaffected. But, this time? What happened, God? Did you forget what You said? Wasn’t I faithful enough?

Everyone around me was happy and excited about this baby. Planning names, and gender reveals, and baby gifts. It made me a little angry at first. How could they be so excited about room colors,  when all I wanted was to wake up tomorrow with two hearbeats still inside me? They hadn’t walked in our shoes for the past 10 years. They didn’t fully understand the phrases we knew so well- “hesitantly excited” and “cautiously optimistic”. You can’t blame anyone for that. That’s my deck of cards.

They told me I should be happy. God had this. His promises told me that He had this, and I should trust Him. I didn’t need to worry about making it through the next 4 weeks, because God had already handled all of the weeks. And, you know what? They weren’t wrong. Neither was I. It’s just that His way of handling things doesn’t always look like we expect.

It’s easier to let your guard down, when you’ve seen Him work miracles before. If you’ve read the blog, or know much about me, you know my story. I have two beautiful, incredible, miracle kids that shouldn’t even be a part of my story, except that the grace of God is just that good.

So, I did. I let my guard down. I made plans, and I let the hesitancy go and threw caution to the wind. We picked names, we told our kids, we made it “Facebook official”. It was weeks before we normally would’ve even uttered a word to anyone, unless to request prayer from our closest confidants. We thought we were trusting God at His word, and we did what we knew better than to ever do – we took God’s goodness and grace for granted.

I’ve cried more tears this week than I know how to explain. This was the hardest loss yet, and the fact that this baby has seemingly become a semi-permanent part of my desperately longing to move-on body, hasn’t helped much. This baby wasn’t any more special than any of the others. That’s not it at all. But, now I know the joy. I’ve felt it. I was ready for a hospital bed full of arms & legs meeting a new sibling, a restless night listening to light breathing by my bed. I’ve experienced them. I know what I’m missing. And, in the words of an all-too-smart-for-his-age 4 year old, “we really wanted that baby to live with us”.

But, friends, this is what I’ve learned from all of this…because God always has a lesson in there somewhere for us. We can’t let our knees get clean. This time around, mine did.

I’m ashamed to admit it. Because I, of all people, should know better. Sure, I prayed for this baby. But were they passionate prayers? Or were they superficial ones? Sure, I read my Bible and searched scripture. Did I claim Malachi 3:11? Did I speak the words of Jesus, and tell God that I know what is impossible with man is possible with Him? Sure, I knew God could take care of this baby. Did I ask for free flowing blood & wholeness of body every time I thought of the little life inside me? Did I ask God His opinion on whether or not I should inject blood thinners this pregnancy- or did I just assume His answer would be the same? I’m jumping up & down, shaking my fist at myself. Did I consult Him at all for His direction? Or did I take it all for granted?

Now, people, I’m not saying that if you don’t pray hard enough or “right” enough, that you won’t have a baby. Please, don’t misinterpret me in that way. It’s not even about a baby, really. It’s about us– our hearts. What I’m getting at, is this. Don’t get lazy. Don’t take Him for granted- in any circumstance. Pray, seek Him, with your whole heart. And if you’re not sure if you’re seeking Him strongly enough, then seek harder.

Don’t just assume that because He can, He will.

Our pastor made a point last Sunday that cut me like a knife, and has stuck with me almost hauntingly. In time of trial, we prove- do we love His heart, or do we love His hands? Do we love Him for what He’s done for us….or what He can do for us? He is after our heart — trial proves whether or not we are after His.

I wasn’t after His, y’all. Not fully & completely. Not like I have been in the past. Not like I know I should be. I was after what He could do for me. Not what I should be doing for Him.  I’m a work in progress, just like most everyone else. It was time that I searched my heart.

I’m mourning this baby. More than I’ve mourned any of the others before. I don’t tell you this for your sympathies- because, believe me, I know this road all too well. I’ll be fine. We’ve proven that already. I tell you this because, in my mourning, I’ve come to realize that it’s not just the loss of my baby I’m mourning.  I’m mourning how far off course I’ve gotten from the King of my heart. You might not know it by looking at me outwardly. I’ve loved God all along, and I know His goodness. But it’s not about what the lips say, but where the heart resides. And my heart wasn’t all-in.

I could’ve had a D&C on Tuesday of this week. It would’ve been over in an hour, and I could’ve moved on. And right now, oh how I’m wishing I’d done that. But, see…I had this desire in my heart to grieve differently this time. To see. I thought this way would be easier, quicker, and I’d have more closure. I wouldn’t wonder- I’d experience the “letting go”.  If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans…right? Now, I’ve been reliving this all week. Days on days of waiting. Contracting. Waiting for this nightmare to be over. And it’s not. But, God…I think He planted that desire in my heart…because He knew. The anesthesia & stark OR & mindless procedure room wouldn’t allow me to process all of this. I wouldn’t come to the realization of what He was trying to teach me.

Is God punishing me by taking this baby? No. He’s not a mean God. He’s a good, good Father. Always. In every trial, y’all. Whether your trial is babies, or husbands, or friends…whatever it is. He’s not trying to hurt you- He’s not trying to break you- He just wants to mold you & teach you. And He so desperately wants you to let Him love you.

He’s proven in the past that sometimes it takes drastic measures to open my eyes. And here I am….eyes wide open. And now…only now….I’m ready to seek Him harder.

 

Half Down, The Rest To Go . . .

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We met in high school. He was my buddy, and that’s how I saw him. My friends talked me into dating him. I never dreamed how God would use that conversation on the Fighting Pelican football field during a Louisiana-humid danceline practice to direct the steps of my life.

We were married young. So young. Our marriage was so much harder than we imagined. We grew up together. We had different life goals – he wanted to be a small town boy with a respectable job forever, and I wanted to be a graphic designer in a major metropolitan city. We had different personalities, different communication styles. We truly were night and day. We fought a lot. We made it work. Our first year of marriage didn’t look like we imagined – fairy tale kisses and white turtle doves – it looked like struggle, and compromise, and hard work. It looked like more tears than laughs. We had great “game faces”. Years came, and they went. We survived financial struggles, a job that took him away most of the time, my parents’ divorce, challenges with acceptance from family members, the scare of a lump in my breast and surgery to remove it, changing friendships and circumstances. It was tough most of the time. We bought a house, made a life…

A few years into our marriage, we lost a man that we both dearly loved, and I saw my husband truly break down for the first time. He held me up during some of my hardest days. One year to the day after we buried that man, we found out that we were pregnant and had lost our first baby…on the same day. We sat, shaking, in the ER together while the doctor confirmed it. We told our families together. We absorbed the shock, and where to go from there.

We lost 6 more pregnancies in the next 6 years. We dealt with every emotion under the sun. It was so hard. We didn’t deal with loss in the same way, and we didn’t know how to communicate about it. We sat through doctor visits, examinations, blood tests, fertility tests, specimen cups, ultrasound after ultrasound, procedures to get us pregnant, procedures to keep us pregnant, procedures to find out why we couldn’t stay pregnant. I gave myself injections. He gave me injections. I wore bruises like badges of courage. He pretended like it was all ok. We counted days, we timed medications down to the minute, we held our breath a lot. It was hard, and we didn’t deal with any of it in the same way. It drove a wedge between us.

We separated for a while because, honestly, we couldn’t bare the sight of each other some days. We were angry. We weren’t sure if it was at ourselves or each other. But we were angry. We were disappointed and discontent. In that month, we learned a lot. We handled it differently, and we tried new things. But we knew that we didn’t want to be apart. Maybe we weren’t happy with how things were, but something didn’t feel right with us being apart either. And just as he carried all of his clothes out, he trudged them right back in.

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Through the years, we had a lot of ups and downs. We traveled and had some of the most fun times. We took road trips, we ate good food, we explored. We partied & drank & made some really bad choices. We sang loud and laughed until we cried. At the time, it was fun. At the time, it felt good. {Lord, I thank you every day for saving me from this version of me}

He took a job working away. We lived apart for several months, and I’d travel to see him. I loved the travel. He hated being away. He resented me for encouraging him to take the job. Probably for not being able to give him a baby too. We yelled a lot. He made great money, while it lasted. He was laid off a few months in, and we blew through our substantial savings so that we could get by. We didn’t know how our next set of bills would be paid at times. My income alone was good, but not nearly enough. We were broke, and we were scared. We were different people than when we got married. We were kids playing adult. We were in over our heads. But, we didn’t believe in any other way.

We spent our first 8 anniversaries apart. Work was important, and duty called. It’s hard on newlyweds, adapting to things like that. I remember the first anniversary we did spend together….we didn’t know how to act. Maybe that was part of the thing…we were too accustomed to apart, to know how to “do” together.

We said a lot of things we didn’t mean in those days. We said things just to hurt each other. There were tough times. It wasn’t all bad though. We made new friends, we began to find good friendship in each other. We bought cars & sold them. We bought houses & sold them. We changed a lot in those days. We grew up a lot. We learned to respect each other more. We enjoyed each other more. We lightened up a lot.

We talked about adopting. We drove hours on end to meet with people that could make it happen. We fretted over where on earth we would get that kind of money. We fretted over what would happen if they changed their minds & we lost all that money that we didn’t really even have. We fretted over what life would look like if we never had a baby. The awkward moments when people ask if you have kids, or if you want them. When people ask why you haven’t started a family yet. When family members make uncomfortable jokes about when they’ll ever get a grandbaby. When you’re the only person in the conversation that can only relate to the first trimester of the pregnancy. When you know pitying stares, and hushed whispers when you enter the room. We accepted it all, and that we’d always be “those” people. We decided to travel as much, and as far, as we could. We would save to buy our dream home, and do nice things for ourselves.

I gave him an out. We both knew it was me…I was the reason we couldn’t have babies. And if he wanted to leave, to pursue his dream of fatherhood with someone else, I wouldn’t stop him. I wouldn’t blame him. I would understand. It wasn’t his fault, and he didn’t know this going in. He swore that he would never leave. It was my reality check. No matter what, the boy that I married – the man that I was now married to – he loved me. Truly. For better or for worse. No matter what.

I tell you all this not to say our marriage was so bad, because it wasn’t. It was just tough. I tell you all of this, just to tell you how much we overcame. How thankful I am for where we are today…because it’s been a bumpy road! There were great times too! Plenty of them. But it isn’t the smooth road that builds character, now is it?

Life went on. All that fighting & learning to communicate…it got better. We grew. We matured. We settled into career paths that looked nothing like we’d dreamed, and we accepted where we were in this crazy little life.

We were given money. An inheritance from someone who hadn’t died yet. Someone who didn’t know our inner-debate over adopting, or how ungodly expensive it was. Someone who wanted us to have a baby almost as much as we did, and prayed to see a baby in our arms in their lifetime. We put the money aside. Maybe it would make a good down payment on that dream home. Lord knows we weren’t the kind of people to manage that kind of money.

Time marched on. A year went by. We sat in shock when we got the phone call. Someone wanted us to adopt their baby. The money. The prayers. This was it. With that phone call came a whole new set of marital “lesson planning”. We didn’t know where to start. We made phone calls, we contacted agencies, we made preparations. We divulged birth certificates, tax returns, bank statements, check stubs, letters of employment, letters of reference, fingerprints, state background checks, FBI checks, our religious background, our childhood home life, our education, our marital history, how we felt about each other, how we felt about our families, friends, medical histories, physicals, home visits, inspection of our home, making sure we had adequate space for a baby, that we were “childproofed”, that we had taken all safety measures. We sat through home visit after home visit. All those years of trial & patience building…they had to be leading up to this. It was stressful. Nail-bitingly stressful. We passed. Time passed. And to summarize a very long 9 months, we became parents to the most beautiful little boy we’d ever laid eyes on.

We drove hours to be there when he was born. We lived in a hotel for 13 days after he came into this world, waiting on paperwork to clear us to bring him home. All the parenting books…they don’t prepare you for taking care of a baby in a hotel room with paper-thin walls, no warmers or chillers or rockers or swingers or any of those fancy contraptions that make baby-life easier. It was hard. And it was the most amazing way to start parenthood. Just us. We were hours from family. Our new little family, learning to be a family on our very own. I still look back on those sweet days of taking my own newborn photos with hotel bedsheets & window light, lugging loads of laundry down to the hotel laundry room at 3 am when we ran out of onesies because we could only pack so many, running to the nearest store at 10pm to buy a bouncer because who knew you’d actually want to make room for one of those in the truckload of things. All the things. It was a beautiful, beautiful time. Love grew & ran rampant.

We loved him so much. It truly grew our love for each other. Don’t get me wrong. Learning to “be three” after being two for so many years – it’s tough. As I’ve said before, we have different styles of everything. Parenting included. He would get frustrated when I’d call him at work, crying myself, because this colicy little being wouldn’t stop crying to SAVE.MY.LIFE. I would get frustrated at his new-parent paranoia. I thought the poor child would never get to eat a solid food in his lifetime. He kept me aware, and I mellowed him. It was truly ironic, how our parenting styles were complete opposite of the way we did everything else. We learned so much about each other, and ourselves. Most of all, we learned to laugh at ourselves a lot of the time.

We sat as strangers examined us, made sure we were being “fit” parents. Then, there was a turning moment. We sat in a courtroom, while a judge declared him ours. That man I married…he couldn’t speak for his tears. The way I saw him in that moment…it changed me inside. I didn’t see the angry, quick-tempered person I knew. I saw a Dad whose dreams came true. The boy that loved me.

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We truly didn’t want him to be an only child. But we knew our chances of a successful pregnancy. We knew the statistics. And we knew we couldn’t afford another adoption. We also knew how broken we were after the last miscarriage. We were scared that, now that we knew how amazing this was, the loss of it now would truly wound us beyond repair.

We lost our 7th pregnancy, and then our 8th. With each heartbeat we saw flicker on that black & white screen, a piece of our heart came alive. And with each time we saw it disappear, a piece of us died. Seeing him go through those emotions was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through. He had no control. I don’t know any other way to describe it. Literally, pieces of his heart died. Hope started to die. We had no idea what was wrong. What was going on!

We were adults now. When you’ve been through all that – finances, fights, fertility, failure – you can feel the adulthood on you. It’s like a coat. A heavy one that you can’t take off, no matter how hard you try.

You probably already know the story. We lost that last baby, and 14 hours later, we lost one of the most important people in our lives. God had quit knocking on our door. He’d started beating on it. We buried her on my mom, her daughters’, birthday. The next day, I was wheeled into the cold OR to finish what we figured would be our last pregnancy. I don’t even know a word to describe how we felt. Angry? That doesn’t do it justice. We didn’t talk much. We didn’t know what to say to each other. I didn’t want the past, the way we were, to creep back in…but it was trying. We tried to remain strong & united for our baby boy.

A late night conversation – one that involved questioning God, and possibly even his mere existence – led us to a church. We grew. We could feel ourselves and our relationship change when we walked in those doors. A lot happened. We heard a testimony that opened our hearts to possibility. We decided to talk to a doctor one last time. I let him do the talking, because I was honestly done. I didn’t want to cry any more. He handled for me, what he knew I wasn’t strong enough to bare. We had a conversation with our doctor, one that involved God being greater than medicine. He wanted to try. I could see it in his eyes. He wanted to try without the medicine, and shots, and bruises. I was scared, but he pushed. He pushed hard enough for me to listen. God pushed through him.  And I’m so glad he did.

I sought answers from God, and He answered loud and clear. We proceeded, against doctor advisement, without medicine. You know the story. We spoke life, we claimed His promises, we trusted Him and Him alone. We became parents again. Only by the grace of God. Only.

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Our marriage. I can literally feel the strength in it. I look back at the last 14 years, and I can see what God has done. What He’s doing. I can see purpose & maps & plans. I can see His work in it. It’s like I can almost see his blueprint. I can see why the hard times were worth it. I’m so, so thankful that JW Brookshire didn’t give up on me, when I felt like giving up on everything.

I was impossible and hard and ridiculous. I was mean. I was sad. I wanted a different life. I was depressed and lonely and scared. I was a lot of things, and a lot of people would’ve walked out on more than one occasion. Heck, I asked him to walk out! He stood by me through some of the most difficult things that I could’ve possibly faced. He will tell you – he didn’t always like me. I’m sure there were a few times he even questioned if he really loved me. But he stood by me. Because that’s the kind of man he is.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.”  – Psalm 34:18

I tell you this because today, we’ve been married for 14 years. We’ve been together almost half of our lives. It’s true, maybe we’re no great example of how a marriage should look. I’ll be the first to admit, we’ve done a lot of wrong. We’ve gone about things the hard way, and the wrong way, more times than I care to admit. But, I sit here tonight to tell you that beyond a shadow of a doubt, it is by God’s grace and infinite mercy that I am married to this man. There’s no way I deserve him. But God had (has) a purpose for us – individually and together. He’s shown us weak, so He could make us strong.

“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth”  – Exodus 9:16

That man called me just now. 5 times, to be exact, because he knew me so well. He knew I’d probably fallen asleep on the couch. And tomorrow is my first day back at work, so he wanted to be sure I had an alarm set for the morning. He would call until I answered, because that’s who he is. He’s my constant. My keeper. My help. My very best friend. Well honey, guess what….I only let you think I was asleep on the couch. I was doing this. Telling everyone we know how grateful I am for you.

God has placed great people in his life- Godly council, Godly influences. I thank Him every day for that. God has used great men of God to refine my man of God. He has opened his heart to allow God in. I’m so thankful for the beautiful work that the Lord is doing in my husband. He has given him a heart that I aspire for. He has given him a work ethic, an annointing for where he is now. He is working out his kinks. He is truly a purpose with a name.

God gave me the desires of my heart even back when I was 19 years old. I didn’t know it then. And for a lot of years, I didn’t feel like it. But, He was pruning us to be exactly who we are now….a perfect, perfect fit. A strong unity. A work still in progress. One.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” – Proverbs 19:21 

Father God, I’m so thankful that You know what is best for us. I’m so thankful that You go before me, and make the crooked paths straight. I’m so thankful that you placed a conviction in our hearts, that kept us together through it all. I’m so thankful that, even through the years that we didn’t turn to You, You kept us in Your steady, mighty hand.

JW- I’m all in. There’s no other story I’d rather tell. Dig two graves.

-gus

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.:First Steps:.

This won’t be my typical blog post- long-winded and full of deep thoughts. But, something happened tonight that the Lord keeps whispering that I need to share here.

It’s been one year today since I started this blog. The blog that the Lord laid upon my heart. He told me then that it was my vessel to my purpose, to giving Him glory. Today, my sweet baby boy turned 15 months old. And, today he took his first steps!

If you know me personally, you know how big of deal this is to our household. Honestly, I’d gotten to the point that I was letting the enemy & fear creep in. I was beginning to convince myself that maybe he was delayed somehow, or had some type of medical issue…I mean, there had to be some reason. Now, I know 15 months isn’t too terribly late to walk. A lot of friends’ encouraged me that their kids walked about this time. But, not my kid. Right?

We’d tried bribing him with toys, food, shiny things. We walked holding his fingers til I thought ours might fall off. We tried praising him, and tricking him, and enticing him. Nothing worked.

Everyone told me to just give him time. And I knew in my heart that was the truth. But I just couldn’t wrap my brain around why it was taking so long. He would walk not even holding, but literally touching my finger. But he needed a confidence boost. Or something.

Today was the least likely of days for this guy to walk. He’s been a little under-the-weather the last couple days. He was cranky today, not cooperative. We’d gone out to eat and run errands, and honestly, I’d planned to come home and put him right to bed. But he’d insisted on not having his diaper changed, and playing instead.

When I say we’d tried everything to get him to walk….I mean it. But, there was one thing.

We were playing on his floor, when he casually stood and took a toy. I could see in his face that he thought about taking a step, but plopped down instead. My husband & I exchanged a look, and we just knew we needed to pray over him. There was no time to look up the most appropriate verse for the situation, or even any verse for that matter. As my husband stood him back up to his feet, I prayed.

“Lord, Your word says that You will guide our steps. Father, we pray now that You will guide Sams’ steps. Make his steps strong and sturdy, so that he may walk. In Jesus’ name.”

Just like that. A step. And the desire was there. We could see it in his face. Another try, another step. And then another. We stopped and thanked God, for He truly is so good.

Nine steps tonight.

As a friend pointed out to me in a “congratulatory” text she sent…“I love the little things that we so often don’t consider praying over, and then God’s like…Thanks for finally asking, Here ya go!”

That’s so humbling and so true. I never stopped or thought to ask GOD to help Sam walk. It is obvious. Why wouldn’t I have asked Him for it? Because it seemed too trivial, I suppose.

But that’s what’s so great about our God. He loves being in the details and trivial things.

“Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”  -Mark 11:24

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”  -Psalm 107:1

 

 

A Lesson from my Fleas

I am tired. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually. I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, or days in the week, to do all the things that I need to do. I feel like I can never meet the needs of all these people that are needing me. Tugging me. Wanting me. I feel like I’m treading water, just keeping my head above the surface, to survive all the things coming my way.

My kids are needy. They’re 1 and 3, what do I expect? My husband isn’t home a lot. He has a very demanding job, plays softball, volunteers for various things, works from home some too. I’m thankful for all he does for us, truly I am. He’s an important guy with busy-ness of his own, and I respect that. He’s tired too. I have a job that I adore, I serve at our church, I try to fit in fun things for my kids, and playdates with friends. I wouldn’t trade a single one of these things for the world. But they make life busy. Life keeps throwing me things… to-do lists, parties, obligations, things that break, things that need repair, things that need to be disposed of, things that need to be sorted, things that need to be cleaned, things that need my attention. All the things.

Some days I feel like I meet everyones’ needs except my own. I make breakfast, I dress people, I iron clothes, I run errands, I clean spills, I mop floors, I go to work, I transport kids, I check papers and folders, I respond to messages & emails, I wipe noses, I fold clothes, I make lunches, I pick up prescriptions, I clean toilets, I pay bills…and at the end of that day, I feel like I’ve poured into everyone else’s needs. But many days, I feel like no one has poured into mine. It’s not their fault, really. I don’t tell them that I wish I could just do one “fun” thing for me. They don’t know how much I long for everyone to nap at the same time, and everything to be clean already, so I can sit down and close my eyes and hear the silence. They just don’t know. And that’s ok.

I’ve been spiritually lacking. Or spiritually slacking. The things…they take up so much time. If I could just roll out of bed 30 minutes earlier, I could have some extra quiet time with Jesus before the hustle & bustle of the day. So, I set the alarm 40 minutes early (you know, 10 minutes leeway). About 5 minutes before “alarm time”, I feel 2 little hands scrambling their way into my bed. “Mommy, I need breakfast”. And just like that, my morning coffee & quiet time belongs to the owner of those 2 little scrambling hands.

I’m not feeding myself. And I know it.

I felt this post coming together in my head today, as I vacuumed every floor, carpet, baseboard, cushion, nook & cranny in my house to try to exterminate the fleas that have recently taken up residence. It dominated my morning. I didn’t have time for this. My to-do list wasn’t any shorter, my errands weren’t any fewer…and now I have “exterminator” added to my already long list of job titles. The fleas, they make me feel many things – overwhelmed and embarrassed and dirty. My house is clean. I don’t have indoor pets. I scrub my floors usually twice a week. We are good, clean people! Why do I have fleas?! Because the enemy likes to throw things at me sometimes. He’s crafty like that. And God…sometimes He sends me lessons in the most humorous of ways. {sigh!}

I’m supposed to have a long overdue play date this afternoon with a dear friend. A friend that is always spiritually encouraging to me. A friend from whom I gain spiritual strength in our talks and times together. A friend that I probably need more of. And what was going through my head, as I vacuumed fleas? “I need to cancel our playdate. There’s no way there will be time for me to finish cleaning & spraying & washing everything before time to leave.” Just like that, I was ready to cancel. And, might I add, it would be the 3rd time we’ve had to reschedule this playdate. Then, it occurred to me. How am I ever going to feed my spiritual self, if I avoid the encounters that will do so?

You aren’t getting me this time, Satan.

I haven’t made time for me- for coffee & Jesus, for reading books, for texting or calling long-lost friends, for indulging my wants, for relaxing and just taking a break. My quiet time has consisted of what I felt would be “good enough” for God- a couple devotional readings, a few verses from the Bible, a quick recount of those needing prayer, and yes, time in prayer. But it’s not my best. I’m not giving God my best. I’m giving Him what I think will satisfy Him…what will “get me by”. Yeah, I’m sure He’s really “satisfied”. {insert eye roll here}

Friends, is that you too? Are you treading water? Have you gotten stagnant? Were you once on fire for God, and now you’re fanning the ashes? Are you praying out of passion for the Lord, or out of obligation? Are you seeking….or are you surviving?

I’ve been surviving. And I’m sure I’ve been making the enemy so happy.

Today, I decided it’s time to make a change. I’m committing to a change- in my self, in my household, in my spiritual walk. I need a culture change, and it needs to start now.

When I felt this post coming together in my mind, I turned to the book of James. It’s one of the most “marked up” books in my Bible, and it didn’t fail me today either.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” – James 1:22

“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” -James 1:14-15

Oh, how I’ve been drawn away by my own desires! Get under my feet, Satan!

“For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” -James 3:16

“Adulters and alduteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” -James 4:4

Let me expound on that last verse. Here’s what the footnotes in my Bible state about it, which I loved and needed today.

James argued that through their selfish, quarrelsome behavior, his readers were seeking “friendship with the world”. They were breaking their covenant with God and committing spiritual adultery. God would not tolerate a rival. He requires total, unwavering allegiance from the people with whom He has joined Himself.

That’s been me. A friend of the world. A friend of my to-do list. A friend of my commitments and obligations.

I encourage you to seek within yourself, as I did while I was cleaning up fleas this morning. Has your busy-ness caused a disconnect with God? Have you let the needs of others stifle your spiritual needs & connection with God? Have you become complacent? Just getting by? Maybe not….and that’s great.

But let me tell you, it’s easy to do. One thing, one moment, one day…it leads to another. We have to be diligent in our seeking of the Lord, so friendship with the world doesn’t take over our time.

It’s time for a culture change in my home. I guess I need to thank those pesky little fleas after all.

faith

 

January 14th

You have to give a little to get a little. I’m sure we’ve all heard that saying.

For the last couple January 14ths…and I’m sure for every January 14th to come…I’ve taken some time to reflect. It’s the day that God changed my life. Rocked my world. I didn’t want to give anything, but I gave a lot. But, oh what I got in return!

She didn’t even stand 5 feet tall, but she had the heart of a giant. She had a pin-tight perm and wore her pants too high. She usually smelled a little like baby powder. Her hands were cold to touch, but warm with love. I saw her almost every day of the first 17 years of my life. I grew up across the street. Every day after school, I’d dial that same phone number to be sure she was home from work. She worked up until the day she went into the hospital…She was devoted like that. When she answered, I’d take off in that same diagonal path across the street. We’d go to the “playroom”, and she’d let me be whomever I dreamed of that day. I was the teacher, she was my student. I was the pageant contestant, she was my judge. I was the musician, she was my audience. She was so much more than my grandmother. She was my friend.

She loved reading. She sang Kenny Rogers in the passenger seat of my grandpa’s truck in the most horribly beautiful voice that I’ll never forget. She could cook like nobody’s business…macaroni & cheese, chicken & dumplings, pork chops & eggs, biscuits & pepper. She collected wind chimes and magnets. Everyone in the family brought them to her, wherever they may have gone, and you could barely see the white of her refrigerator for them.

I was her only granddaughter. And as much as she loved those boys, I knew I had a special place in her heart. When I met my future husband, she accepted him as if he were already a part of the family. She was nosy and gullible. He was a jokester, and she believed anything he told her. She loved him like he was one of her own.

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On January 14, 2013, she went home. Home to be with Jesus. I know that’s where she went because her big black Bible full of markings, her life, her constant reminder to stay in church and stay talking to God…they told me so.

For 31 years, she’d been a gift to me. Giving her up was a sacrifice. One that I wasn’t prepared to make. She had fallen on Christmas Day, broken her shoulder. I didn’t see her that day. It still breaks my heart into a million pieces to think of that. If she’d known why, I know she would’ve understood…

I was pregnant. I was about 7 weeks into my 8th pregnancy. If you follow the blog at all, you’ll know that it was my also my 8th unsuccessful pregnancy. But, at that point, I was still trying to do everything right. Medicines taken by scheduled alarms on my phone, so as to not be even 10 minutes off. Injections of blood thinners that left painful bruises all over my stomach. As much rest as I could possibly tolerate. And that’s why, that Christmas we chose to not travel the hour and a half drive to her house. It was the first Christmas in my life that I hadn’t seen her. She didn’t know I was pregnant.

Every Christmas Eve, the whole family would gather in her living room. We’d laugh and joke and exchange gifts. My grandfather would be the biggest kid of us all, so excited to open his packages.  Those wood paneled walls and brown shag carpet hold some of the best memories of my childhood. Then, we’d take the picture. Memaw & Pop with the grandkids. I have one from every year, up until he died in ’05. Then, we continued without him up until that Christmas. All they ever wanted was for their entire family to be together. And we always were.

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She had one of the worst types of humerus fractures. The first doctor that saw her placed her in a sling. It was only after a couple very painful weeks…weeks of her not eating, not sleeping, in pain…that she sought another opinion. She needed surgery to repair the break.

She was admitted to the hospital on January 13th, in preparation for surgery the following morning. While she was downstairs in the hospital lobby, waiting to be admitted & taken to her room, I was upstairs in the obstetricians’ office being told the news. We’d lost the baby. Five floors and one secret separated us.

I was heartbroken, but I couldn’t let it show. I didn’t want her to know I’d lost the baby…didn’t want her to know I’d even been pregnant. She would’ve been as heartbroken as we were…Maybe more. Every time a piece of us died with another lost baby, a piece of her had died too. I didn’t want to see it in her face again. So, we decided not to tell her until we were safely out of the first trimester….which never happened.

I sat in her room a while that afternoon. She was in so much pain that we didn’t chat much. Her two children put their offenses aside and chatted, and she was obviously pleased. It makes me so happy to know that was one of the last things she saw.  I told her I’d stay with her that night, but she insisted I go home and “take care of her baby”.

Oh, how she loved that baby! He was about 15 months old, and was the apple of her eye. JW had taken him to visit her the week before she went in the hospital. And although she didn’t make it up out of her bed, he’d toddled all over her room…into everything, and she didn’t mind one bit. The last words she spoke to me were about them. “Give JW and my baby a kiss for me.”

And that was it. At 6pm, I went home to meet my little family at the dinner table. I had no appetite, but loads of worry. And at 3am the following morning, God showed me how much He wanted me to give.

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There weren’t many things I could’ve imagined that would’ve been as bad as losing that pregnancy. But losing her was one of them. I felt like God had taken too much. More than I should’ve had to give. I couldn’t see, or even imagine, what He had in store to give me in return.

I’d strayed from him. My heart had become bitter. I’d made choices I’m not proud of. I’d done things that are embarrassing to me now. My prayer life was pretty close to nonexistent. I didn’t “have” a church. I opened my Bible when I needed something. I thought about God, and the blessing He’d given me in the adoption of my son…but I didn’t praise Him, or audibly thank Him, or give Him glory.

He took from me. It wasn’t a punishment…that isn’t how He works…but it sure felt like one. And one might think “How mean! How awful!” Right? But, in taking away, He set into motion that which would give. He gave us desperation. We were desperate for hope. He’s not mean or awful. He opened our eyes! He showed us what we needed…what was missing!

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28

Friends, there’s always a choice. I know some of us have been through more than others. Some of us have hurts so deep they’re unimaginable to the rest of us. But know this! He is a good, good Father! And He’s never going to take away, without giving in return! Whatever He has set in motion is always integral to the purpose of your life.

I now know that these losses…that hurt…was part of my bigger picture, so that I would search for answers. Search for hope. Search for Him!

God truly, truly works for good. That’s not to say that all things that happen to us are good. Losing my baby wasn’t good. Losing her wasn’t good. Not even by any stretch of the imagination. But friends, God promises us that He will work all things together for the good of them who love Him! The present circumstance may not be good. But maybe, just maybe, the bigger picture is amazing!

It’s like a puzzle. One piece alone is pointless. It shows us nothing. But, when you put all those pieces together…they all make your “big picture”. All of your circumstances, all of the things that you go through, they’re all just one little piece of your big puzzle. Some are hold the background, some are the focal point…some are good, some are “bad”…but without each one of them, you can’t see the bigger picture.

From all that sadness, all the bad, He gave me new life. He led me to a church that would change my relationship with Him in ways I never could’ve imagined. He showed me how to get back into sync with Him. He surrounded me with a new family…a church family. He put aside all of my bondage, and opened my eyes to new ideas, new people, a new way of living. He showed me His love, and how to replicate it toward others. He gave me a renewed strength in my marriage, and showed me how to build it on His Word. He showed me how to parent my baby, and how to show him His love. He changed almost every aspect of my life. He made me NEW in Him!

Then, he gave me the most unimaginable gift of all. He gave me a successful pregnancy. One that beat all odds, broke all the chains, and was based on the foundation of His Word.

And today, we laugh about how much this 10 month old baby acts like that beloved 83 year old woman.

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“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” -Job 1:21