Saturday, April 25, 2015

Our Year, My Crisis of Faith, & Our Prayer Requests

I don't usually write posts in this way, but I have a lot to say - a lot to catch some of y'all up on - so I'm going to write this one post in 3 parts.  I'll be as brief as possible, but let me apologize in advance for the length.

Our Year

This has been a hard year.  There has been joy, to be sure – being a child of God, Michael’s wife, & Emma’s Mama, that’s a given – but I've never lived through a year like this where difficulty compounded sorrow repeatedly.  Beginning in March of last year, my beloved Granny died suddenly.  In June we discovered we were expecting our second child, only to be told a few weeks later that we had lost him or her.  (I’ve dealt with my fair share of sorrow, but I’ve never known this depth of pain before.  Never.  And lest anyone think differently, while the pain does lose its rawness, it never goes away & can crop up at any time.)  A couple of people whom I love dearly experienced deep sorrow, & I sorrowed with them because I love them.  Then, at the beginning of this year, despite our very best efforts, we lost our home.

Amongst the sorrows, as I mentioned, there were joys.  For those of you who don’t know, we discovered in October that we were pregnant again!  To be sure, that made me nervous, as my heart was so very tender with grief over Christian.  Still, this little one whom God is forming in my womb tops the list of joys for this year!

My Crisis of Faith

I’m already a nervous expecting Mama, especially early on.  I tend to be fine between appointments, but as one approaches, I start to worry that we’re going to discover something’s wrong.  Losing Christian only amplified that anxiety.  But as we passed the early benchmarks, & as I was able to rent a hand-held Doppler, I became more at ease.  My comfort was challenged a bit, though, at the 20 week appointment where we discovered that this baby – Jack, as we learned to our extreme delight! – had a slight abnormality that our doctor wanted to keep a watch on.  “Echogenic bowel”, they called it.  He didn’t seem distressed & said it was possible that this was nothing to worry about, something that could be a false reading or even resolve on its own.  He wanted us to come back in 4 weeks for another ultrasound.  I prayed fervently, more fervently than I’ve ever prayed for anything in my entire life, that this shadow would be gone when we went back.  I knew from research that echogenic bowel could mean some pretty scary things, so I begged God to let it be gone.  I was perfectly honest with Him that I had had enough this year; I couldn’t handle one more sorrow, especially in regards to my children.  There are others who seem to float through life with nary a ripple in their placid life.  “Let them have a turn,” I pleaded.  I prayed these things over & over & over . . .  & over.  And even though I still felt some anxiety, I just knew that when we went back, everything would be normal.  I just knew it.  But I was wrong.

It took a few hours, but before the day was done, I freaked out.  I mean, freaked out.  I became volatilely angry with God.  I questioned His goodness & His love for me.  I wondered if maybe the atheists were right – is God capricious?  Why would He do this to me?  Hadn’t I suffered enough?  Not just this year, but in life?  I was molested, I suffered through family estrangements, I was hurt grievously by others, I struggled with infertility for years!  And then He had put me through the intensive pain of the past year, topping it off by taking my child away only to compound it by threatening this one?  I sobbed out my anger & grief to Michael, in Emma’s presence, who both sought to comfort me.  I felt like I was going to be torn apart by this emotional tornado.  I was inconsolable, livid, confused . . . & scared.  Scared because I had never in my life, despite my trials, questioned God like this.  I had never ever been angry with Him.  Never doubted everything I ever believed about Him.  I was terrified that I would lose my faith, & that was brand new to me, as well.  I believe that my faith – its very existence from beginning to end – is fully dependent on God.  I wouldn’t believe in Christ as my Savior if He hadn’t drawn me, & I am completely dependent on Him to keep me from losing that faith.  I knew this, but this situation made me experience it.  All I could do was cry out to Him.  I was unbelievably angry, yet I still loved Him & didn’t want to turn from Him.  So, I begged Him to not let me go, not let me lose my faith.  For days I pleaded for Him to do this.  Slowly, ever so slowly, my tornado of emotions quieted, & my faith emerged stronger.  He sent me through the fire & brought me back out.  I have never been more thankful for anything . . . or more relieved.  A few things occurred to me as my storm blew itself out:

1)      I was so angry at God for possibly requiring my son of me or afflicting him with some grievous condition, yet He knows that grief Himself.  He knows what it means to watch the Son He loves afflicted & killed, & it was His gracious plan out of love for His enemies (including me), in order to reconcile us to Himself.  I realized I had no right to withhold my own son should He ask him of me.
2)      Every single person is created by God in His image & is, therefore, “fearfully & wonderfully made”.  Even people with deformities or diseases.  People are not the sum of their infirmities, & I will focus on Jack, not his limitations (if there are any).
3)      No matter what happens, as long as Michael & I are alive, Jack will never know a day where he is not loved & cared for.  He will always know that we love him & so does God.

Our Prayer Requests

The bottom line here is that we don’t know if Jack has a problem or not.  We went to a specialist who basically couldn’t tell us anything definitive without further testing – testing that still wouldn’t be conclusive.  We knew going in that we would not consent to anything invasive like amniocentesis, so we’re choosing to live with the uncertainty.  The fact that the echogenic bowel is the only abnormality works in our favor.  Usually such cases turn out with a healthy baby.  We know there’s no guarantee, though.  Blessedly, God has taken away my anxiety.  Since my crisis of faith, I have only had one twinge of anxiety, which is when I realized I need to focus on Jack & not his possible issues.  If we may ask, please pray for us.  Pray for Jack’s health; even though our love for him will be undimmed we, of course, still desire him to be healthy.  Pray for our faith in God (& His goodness & love) to remain strong regardless of what happens.  Pray that we (mainly me) won’t become angry with God if things don’t go as we hope.  Pray that God will be with us no matter if Jack is born healthy or not – because we’re going to need Him either way.  Pray for my health & for his birth (now just 9 weeks away, give or take) to be smooth & uncomplicated, & for recovery to be quick & easy.  Pray for Emma as she transitions from being an only child to being a big sister.  Pray for Michael & me to be godly parents to both of our babies.  And pray for us to glorify God in everything.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, September 19, 2014

Never Alone

Grief is lonely.  I never realized that until now.  Not too long ago, I read about how Jesus can empathize with us when we are lonely in our grief because He has been there, too.  I read about His experience in the Garden of Gethsemane & felt panged for His sorrow at finding Himself alone in His grief while His friends slept.  I appreciated the idea of Him being with me if I were ever lonely in my own grief, but at that point I wasn't, so it didn't have the impact that it does today.  But today . . . today, I feel the loneliness.  I don't blame anyone for that.  It's just life.  Life goes on for others.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Life goes on for me, too, it's just that it's different now.  There's this piece of my heart that is missing, a piece that died with Christian.  This is my new reality, & the grief - while not always overwhelming - is ever present & sucks me under in an instant.  But because it's been almost 2 months since I lost Christian, it's not as real for everyone else, & I am just kind of left to myself with my grief.  But it's not just that.  This grief is not as real to anyone else because it's not their grief.  That's true even for Michael.  He doesn't feel this loss as intensely because, although Christian is his baby, too, he didn't carry that life in his body . . . & he didn't experience the labor to pass that tiny body after he/she died.  So, my grief is uniquely my own.  I don't dwell on it constantly; I've even gone a whole day here & there without shedding a single tear.  But when I am pulled under, my tears have been met with words that, although they may not intend to do so, dismiss my grief.  So, I cry alone now.  Except at night, when I pray (& sometimes cry) next to Emma as she drifts off to sleep.  Although, I guess that's not really accurate, either, because each & every time I sob out my sorrow, I cry out to God & know He's there.  So now, these words have new meaning to me:

     "Find comfort in the companionship of the one who understands what it is like to be all alone.  'He was despised and rejected - a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.  We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.  He was despised, and we did not care' (Isaiah 53:3).
     When you feel like no one understands, listen to the words of Jesus and find comfort.  He has been there.
     When you feel like everyone has abandoned you and no one cares about the agony in your soul, listen to the words of Jesus and find companionship.  Hear him calling you to a deeper, more real relationship with him than you've ever had before.
     He, too, has been overwhelmed with sorrow.  He will meet you in this place of pain and speak to you, letting you know that you are never alone."  ~ Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, Nancy Guthrie, pg. 8

Thursday, August 21, 2014

God in My Miscarriage

Almost two months ago, on June 27, I had one of the happiest days of my life!  That was the day we discovered that God had created life in my womb again.  Oh, glorious day!  Because of my struggles with infertility, I am wary of pregnancy tests.  So, even when I'm showing pretty clear symptoms, I will explain them away in an effort to not get my hopes up.  And I avoid pregnancy tests like the plague until Michael finally convinces me to just end my mental gymnastics ("Could I be?  No.  I can't be.  Supper obviously didn't agree with me; that's why I'm nauseous.  Could I be pregnant?  I want to be, but  I don't need to be.  Oh, but Lord, if I am, please protect the baby.  Just stop it, Chrissy, you're not pregnant.") & take a test.  Funnily enough, this time played out almost exactly like when we found out we were pregnant with Emma.  Michael came home from work & told me to take a test.  I didn't want to because I was convinced my body was just being wonky & I didn't want to see a negative result.  But, as he laid down to go to sleep, I headed to the bathroom.  I wasn't even done counting out the 20 seconds you're supposed to, didn't even have time to set the stick down on the counter, didn't even have to set a timer.  Positive.  It was positive!  We were going to have another baby!  As soon as I saw that positive result, I was immediately, instantaneously, deeply in love & fiercely protective.  It is astounding how quickly that happens!  I hollered out, astonished & ecstatic, "Emma's gonna be a big sister!"  A stunned Michael just laid in the bed while I ran to kiss him, tears streaming down my face, barely able to keep myself from jumping with joy.  Poor fella needed to sleep after working all night, & all I could do was pick up the phone to call family & text friends.  Then, before even thinking about breakfast, I quickly typed up & printed out a little sign for Emma to hold announcing her new status as a big sister, took a picture, & posted it to Facebook.

A week & a half later, we headed to our OB appointment for our first ultrasound.  I am a worry-wart during pregnancy.  Every day I pray frequently that the baby is okay, that God will help the baby grow strong & healthy, & that He will save our baby's soul.  I did this all throughout my pregnancy with Emma, & this one was no different.  My chief concerns before the first appointment are always ectopic pregnancy & hormone levels, so I'm always anxious to see that everything is okay.  I was very pleased for the tech to announce that everything looked great, & I was 5 weeks 6 days along, which would put our estimated due date on March 4.  I spent the next 2 weeks bouncing between euphoria, planning, & worry.  I lo-o-ove being pregnant, knowing there is life inside of me, & anticipating the joys of another baby is so much fun!  Even so, there are so many things to get done, so many things to figure out, especially when you live in a tiny house, as we do.  Finally, I'm not one to take pregnancy for granted, so - just as I did with Emma - I would have fleeting bouts of worry about how the baby was doing & pray for his/her safety & health.  Blessedly, our baby looked good.  I was happy & at peace.

Then came the morning of our next appointment.  We had planned on dropping Emma off at Michael's sister's farm on the way to the OB's, but left too late.  This made me anxious, because she did not handle the first appointment well (she didn't get her nap out & pitched a fit anytime she had to be separated from me, which meant I held her during the ultrasound & physical exam).  I had hoped to avoid that, but it turned out that God knew what He was doing.  She ended up being a very welcome distraction.  As we sat in the waiting room, I read to Emma & Michael took pictures of us, noting my "pregnancy glow".  Little did we know then that it wouldn't last much longer.

On that day, one month ago, we learned that the burgeoning life inside of me was no more.  Once they took us back & began the ultrasound, I knew almost immediately that something was wrong.  I could tell that the picture on the ultrasound didn't look any different from the last one.  We were 2 weeks 1 day out from the last ultrasound; I was 8 weeks along, so we should have been able to see more.  When the tech said we were measuring 6 weeks 2 days - a mere 3 days further along since our last ultrasound - my heart sank, & I started crying.  She put her hand on my shoulder, gave her apologies, & went to get our doctor while I got dressed.  We were ushered into his office & waited for his appearance to tell us what we already knew.  He was very apologetic when he told us that our baby was gone.  I held out a slim hope that something, anything!, could be done, but he regretfully assured us there was no fixing this.  He also urged me not to blame myself for losing the baby.  "There's nothing you did or didn't do to cause this, so don't play that game."  Wise words, but also rather pointless, because it's just inevitable that I would try to figure out what went wrong.  Is it because I wasn't on Metformin this time?  Or because we didn't fill that Progesterone prescription?  (To that, he said I "could have bathed in Progesterone, & it wouldn't have made any difference.")  Is it because I wasn't exercising & eating super healthy like I was when we got pregnant with Emma?  A hundred questions like these have run through my mind, & the bottom line is that I don't know.  I don't know why I lost my baby, why I won't get to hold him/her in my arms, or read & sing to him/her, or see him/her grow up.  (Well, that's not completely accurate.  I do know that this is a result of the Fall, as are all trials & sorrows.  And it is helpful to know that & to know that one day God will make all things new & will right every wrong.  It is hard, though, to live in this "already, not yet" period of time where I have to grieve the loss of my baby.)  At this point, people want to fix it, they want to bring comfort & get me to think positively.  Although I have felt immense comfort from their displays of love, there is no fixing this.  The only one who could fix this is God, & believe you me, I prayed fervently over those 5 days between the sad news & the actual miscarriage that He would fix it.  I pleaded with Him that the experts were wrong, that our baby was still alive.  I begged Him that even if they were right that He would resurrect our baby in my womb.  I pleaded with groans & sobs.  The pregnancy hormones still coursing through my body continued to evidence themselves in nausea & soreness, prolonging my hope.  As did stories online of misdiagnosed miscarriages.  I prayed that would be our outcome.  The night before the miscarriage began, God gave me the grace to end my pleas in the same way that our Savior did:  "Thy will be done".  The very next day, I began bleeding & knew what God's will was.  (Because I chose a natural miscarriage in lieu of a D&C, this has been a drawn-out process that is just ending more than 3 weeks later.  I will spare you the details here; however, if you are in the same position & want to know what to expect, or if you want to better understand what I've been going through, I will outline my experience in the comments section.)

God's graces in this sorrow have been bountiful.  Every single day He shows me that not only is He aware of my suffering, but He is with me in it & carrying me through it.  I am constantly in awe that the God who holds the universe in place knows my sorrow intimately & cares to minister to me as only He can.  I am beyond grateful.  Should you find yourself in the same situation as I, I encourage you to make a daily list of God's graces to you.  Finding ways to be thankful in the midst of unbearable grief refocuses you & helps you bear it.  Here's my list so far (it grows daily):

     ~sympathies of ultrasound tech
     ~Dr. A praying for us after giving the bad news
     ~kindness of Dr. A in ushering us out the back door (I didn't have to see other pregnant mamas or be stared at as I sobbed)
     ~rainbow in the sky an hour later (God is a promise-keeping God.  I saw this as Him saying to me, "I know, I'm here, I'll carry you through this.")

     ~tight, wordless hug from Rebecca
     ~prayers & sympathies pouring in from friends & family
     ~Emma dropping her toys to run to me & give me hugs & kisses (or tickles) when I cry
     ~warning of miscarriage before it began (I would have been traumatized & my grief would have been paralyzing if it had just suddenly happened)
     ~Michael being a shoulder to cry on
     ~Michael pointing me to biblical truths
     ~multiple prayers offered on our behalf at church
     ~Michael supporting my need (emotionally & physically) to just rest on sofa & watch "Dispatches from the Front" & movies
     ~text messages from Jennifer
     ~pain meds
     ~rainy days that match my mood
     ~compassionate nurse (Tammy)
     ~friends & family checking on me repeatedly (texts & FB)
     ~Angie being on-call for me (in case I began to miscarry & needed her to come in the middle of the night while Michael was at work)
     ~new friend (Brittany) willing to be there for me even though she's pregnant
     ~Amanda sending me pictures of flowers to brighten my day
     ~articles & books reminding me of God's presence in my grief
     ~Beth's text message
     ~Becky's letter
     ~Holy Spirit moving me to retrieve what ended up being Christian's body
     ~finding last gardenia plant in perfect condition (I had my heart set on a gardenia as a memorial plant in which to bury Christian.)

     ~capturing placenta/sac
     ~Dr. A validating my view of our baby (naming him/her, capturing what we could, burying him/her, wanting an ultrasound picture) & my grief over losing Christian
     ~flowers from Kara Grace
     ~"Valley of Vision" on FB
     ~text messages from Katie
     ~fun times with Emma
     ~distractions of daily life
     ~sweet nighttime moments with Emma
     ~Dr. A found ultrasound pictures of Christian - the only ones we will ever have - & sent them to us

     ~"Come Weary Saints"
     ~sympathy from Brian
     ~sympathy from our "meat fella" & his wife
     ~text message from Katie
     ~Terry's words of encouragement & saying that he prays for us daily
     ~my grief isn't constantly overwhelming; there is joy in between the floods of sorrow
     ~Scripture Lullabies
     ~songs in worship service that include trusting in God amidst sorrow (I feel like they were chosen for me)
     ~Pastor Keith's sermon that incorporated some of the very Scriptures that I've been meditating on
     ~vanilla spice candle that gives me a homey feeling & visions of normalcy
     ~Michael holding me while I weep
     ~friends & family not rushing me to "get over it", but are instead encouraging, loving, & are praying for me
     ~Willow Tree "Angel's Embrace" figurine that Michael bought for me

     ~daily comfort in prayer

I know this is long, but let me just take a moment to thank all of you who have ministered to us.  Your love, compassion, & encouragement have meant the world to us.  I can't even begin to thank you, because the gratitude permeates every fiber of my being; words just simply can't convey to you how thankful I am to God for each of you.  It's been such a little thing for you to take a moment to write that message or speak those words, but its worth has been immeasurable.  Years before Michael & I ever met, years before having a baby was even a possibility, I prayed that God would never send me through a miscarriage, & I determined that if I ever did marry & conceive, I would not tell anyone until the 2nd trimester (when chances of miscarriage decrease).  I thought avoiding telling anyone I was pregnant would be easier than having to tell people repeatedly that I had lost the baby.  In reality, I simply can't wait to tell the joyful news, & I'm glad that I didn't.   I can't imagine having to go through this alone.  Each person that has ministered to me & carried us before the throne of God has been a balm to my soul.  (And please know that if you don't see your name listed above, that does not in any way mean that your encouragement & love has gone unnoticed or unappreciated.  Not at all.  I have been so blessed by so many such expressions in numerous ways that it's been hard to keep a list of all of them individually, especially in my fragile mental & emotional state.  But they're all in my heart, & I'm thankful for all of them.)

This post has been rolling around in my heart & head for a while & has taken me more than a week to write.  I really wasn't even sure if I could get through writing it.  So, why even try?  For a couple of reasons.  One, in all of my life, & especially in my trials, I want to bring glory to God.  My desire in sharing my grief here is not that you'll feel pity for me, but that you'll see that in my weakness, God is strong.  I shared my heart's desire with a friend earlier last week, & can't think of any better way of saying it (plus I don't have the energy to reinvent the wheel):  "I do pray that our Father is being magnified by my sharing our grief.  I want people to see that we are hurting & broken, but also hoping & trusting in God.  I want them to see that our faith in & love for Him is not just undimmed, but even more fervent.  I want to show that He is the source of our hope, our rock in this storm, the reason we're able to survive this pain with hope & faith."  My other reason for sharing this is because I know I'm not alone in this grief.  I am not the only Mama who is missing a child.  And for anyone else who is in the very depths of sorrow as I am now, I want you to know that you aren't alone, either.  This is the worst thing I have ever been through, one of my very worst fears realized.  There are honestly times when I hate this valley, when I beg God for this not to be His plan.  I don't like being a Mama of 2 in my heart, but not be able to hold both of my babies in my arms; in fact, every fiber of my being rebels at this reality.  I don't want to be this person going through this pain!  But God.  God is getting me through it.  He is carrying me every single day.  He shows me every day that He is with me & that He loves me.  I know to the very depths of my soul that He is good, that He only gives good gifts to His children, that "He works all things together for good for those who love Him & are called according to His purpose".  I know that "the Lord is near to the brokenhearted & saves the crushed in spirit" & that "He heals the brokenhearted & binds up their wounds".  I know that this is a refiner's fire that is conforming me into Christ's image, & so even though this hurts immensely, I am grateful for that.  I know that "weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning".  That morning will come when I pass from this life to life eternal, & then I will never know another sorrow.  I am clinging tightly to these promises right now.  If you are in Christ, you can, too.  I pray that you may know His comfort & peace, & that you will feel Him carrying you through your sorrow.  There is one more reason that I am sharing this - Christian.  His/her life on this earth was short, but our baby was created by God, in His image, & is valuable.  Loved.  Missed.  Mourned.  Even if it was only our little family's, our precious baby touched our lives, lives in our hearts, & deserves to be honored.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers.  We will need them for a long time to come.  I know from others that our grief will never completely subside, but it will become more bearable.  And one day, we will be reunited with our baby - & all of our loved ones who die in Christ - before the throne of God, never to be separated again.  Until then, I will hope, I will trust, yes, I will grieve, but I will also give thanks.  Thanks for the life that God created in me, thanks for the lives that I get to love & care for every day, & thanks for the many blessings He has bestowed upon me - not the least of which is all of the precious souls who have ministered to us in our grief.  I pray that He blesses all of you as you have blessed us.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Little Reminiscing

When I was a little girl, my Papaw kept Chris & me while Mama & Daddy went to Hawaii. Being handy - & a good Papaw - he built me a little stool so I could "wash dishes" in the kitchen sink. One day, he left me happily playing in the sudsy water until all of a sudden, he heard "a bloodcurdling scream" (his words). He raced into the room expecting to find me grievously wounded, only to come upon me holding out my pruny hands in tears & exclaiming, "They're ruined!" (I was a bit of a drama queen as a child.) I find today that this little girl still lives in me, for after spending an hour scrubbing doors, molding, & baseboards, my hands are pruny, & I can barely stand it. Thankfully, I shed my drama queen side long ago, so I'm not in hysterics . . . much.  ;-)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Red Pepper & Prince Albert, Reunited

My dearest Emma,

What a hard week this has been. Your schedule has been completely thrown off. Naps didn't happen when they should, almost every meal was take-out, & I was not available to you like I normally am. Except for a melt-down or two, you handled beautifully the disruption to your normally routine & fairly placid life. I'm so proud of you. I have, in no small way, your sweet Daddy to thank for this. It's been a heartbreaking week for me, & he's been right by my side the whole way - supporting me, helping me, being a shoulder to cry on, & taking on the tasks that I simply wasn't able to do. It would have been sheer misery without him. Quite honestly, without his heroic effort, I would have missed out on the opportunity to see one of the dearest souls who ever lived before she breathed her last. I'm grateful to God for the gift your Daddy is to me.

You won't remember the sorrow of this week, but I'll never forget it. It's hard to think that it's already been a week. One week since I lost my Granny. One week since one of the brightest lights of my life dimmed, flickered, & went out. Just two weeks shy of her 93rd birthday, this spunky, precious lady met her Lord & Savior face to face. What was the happiest day of her whole life was one of the saddest for me. Even now, my eyes are welling up with tears; but, make no mistake, these tears are for me, not her. They are for my loss, because I will - I already do - miss her something awful. I cry, also, for you, because you will never know her this side of heaven, & that is a great loss. I want you to know her as I do, though, so let me tell you about the Granny I grew up with.

First of all, she was as sweet as her famous iced tea, which is still the benchmark for tea in my book. "Well, it's not like Granny's" is my common reply when someone asks how the tea is. Secondly, she could cook. Especially desserts. All of them are wonderful, but we each have favorites. Your Mawmaw is partial to Granny's baked chocolate pudding, your Uncle Chris loves her lemon cake, & I adore her World's Best Cookies. I never ate a bad meal from her table, but the best of all was her Creole Sauce & Rice topped with a heaping amount of Parmesan cheese, all mixed together & patted down. Yes, sir! Good stuff!

Granny's laugh is infectious. I say "is" because the thought of it still makes me smile. Plus, I reckon she's laughing more now than she ever did before. And with our crazy family picking on her about dancing on the table, telling stories about Papaw Jack, & fighting over who was her favorite grandchild (me, obviously), she had plenty to laugh about! Her laugh was so infectious that she could be clear on the other side of the house, & her laugh would set me to giggling.

Every single time we stayed with her, Chris slept in the "school room", & I slept in her bed with her. Even when I was a teenager or when Chris went out to Papaw's, I slept with her. One night, I awoke to her saying,  "Ow! Oh! Oh!" & discovered that my dream about getting into a fight with Chris had turned into me bopping my poor sleeping Granny on the head! (It's our family's curse that I still laugh at that memory.) I remember feeling awful & apologizing, but promptly falling back asleep. She never said a thing about it the next day. Thankfully, it didn't make her skittish about continuing to share the bed with me. We even shared a bed the night before your Daddy & I got married. I treasure that memory.

Granny had all sorts of quirks & traits that made her so very lovable, & there are memories of her that still make me smile. She beat your back when she gave hugs. She closed her eyes when she talked on the phone (something I caught myself doing the other day). She would go through every other family member's name before getting to yours (Lisa, Brandy, Steve, CHRISSY!). She always kept Christmas coloring books for me because she knew I loved them. She sat on the floor & played Go Fish with Chris & me. She & I would go for walks & the insects would swarm around me & even dive bomb my head despite me being slathered in repellant while leaving her unprotected self completely alone (true story). She took us to the school with her (she taught 2nd grade for 20 years) so we could play in their blue carpeted gym. She bought us BBQ sandwiches at Claiborne's & snow cones at the stand at the end of her street. She made bubble baths for me, let us play in the sprinklers, & had Papaw set up a swing set for us. She'd sit on her front steps while I hung from the monkey bar & Chris leaped from the tire swing hanging from her big Oak tree. We set off fireworks in her driveway & watched "The Wizard of Oz" every year when it came on TV. Her living room at night with the curtains drawn was cozy & dim. I still try to get that effect myself in our home, even if it's just a corner. She loved to read & kept a little notebook of the books she'd read. She & Papaw would talk on the CB radio that sat by her bed; his handle was Prince Albert (the tobacco brand he rolled his cigarettes from) & hers was Red Pepper (red hair + feisty personality = her). She collected spoons, & they hung on her wall in the kitchen. She was always busy, always wanting to clean & help. She had pictures of every family member on the wall in her "school room". I only saw her angry once in my entire life. She said a cuss word, & I remember being shocked that she knew that word!

I look around our house & see vestiges of her:  Her cast iron skillets that I cook in every morning. Her chest of drawers that sits in our room & holds my sewing fabric & her sewing kit. Our little yellow sofa, "Granny's sofa" with the wooden frame, & the matching rocker. Her scalloped glass amber bowl (my favorite) that I sobbed over when it broke a few months ago. The little wooden mirror hanging in our hallway that used to hang in her front bedroom. Her mouli grater that I always use to grate cheese (just like she did when making pear salads for me). The "Autumn in New England" CD that she bought me because I loved hers so much. The hummingbird feeder hanging on our porch, which was never hers, but reminds me of how she always had one filled for her little feathered guests. The sound of a ceiling fan & the sight of curtains billowing in the breeze, which remind me of all the naps I took in her bed. The sound of night critters in the summer that always take me back to her little single-wide that was sort of in town yet almost in the country. The sight of pine trees stretching up to the sky, swaying back & forth in the wind just like those behind her house.

Granny was special. Spunky. Funny. Fun. Precious. Adorable. Beloved. Missed. These are all words that describe Ellie Evelyn Willis, your great grandmother. And, of course, Red Pepper, who has now been reunited with her Prince Albert before the King of Kings. One day, I pray you'll get to meet her. I guarantee you'll love her as much as we all do. And one of the beautiful things about that day is that we'll be able to throw away one of her adjectives, because she'll be missed no more. I look forward to that day. Until then, I'll tell you stories about your "Hip Granny" & we'll live out her legacy of spunkiness, fun, good food, & sweet tea.

Love Always,

Friday, February 28, 2014

Trying Days & A Faithful God

Photo Credit: Storm Clouds over Lone Pine by Gary Hamburgh - All Rights Reserved
Found on BluEyedDaizy
It's been a trying few days. Oh, not completely, mind you. There have been lots of wonderful moments: playing with Emma, laughing with Michael, visiting with my family by marriage, & chatting with Mama. These have been fabulously happy moments! But in between those moments, the clouds have rolled in as my thoughts have turned back to the disagreement with an old family friend that has resulted in a complete fracturing of the relationship.

Perhaps I should have just kept my mouth shut. Looking back, that is really the only way that I could have prevented it. And maybe that's what I should have done. You see, without going into great detail, this friend posted a status that I had some trouble with, one to which I attempted to apply some biblical wisdom. As she claims to be a Christian, I assumed there would be no problem with this. I was wrong. Very long story short, she took offense & we went back & forth several times. I apologized for my wrong & asked for forgiveness, but she would not repent of her wrong, & chose to withhold forgiveness & end the friendship.

I don't like conflict. It ties my stomach up in knots. Trying to be objective, I've taken a look at myself & discovered that there are some things about me that mean that sooner or later, I will be in conflict with someone.

     ~I have a temper, especially when I'm tired, hungry, or emotionally taxed in some way. These things make me impatient , more easily irked, & more likely to enter into an argument. That's not good. I definitely need to refrain from interactions as much as possible when I'm in these states. (That's one reason why I'm better at communicating through writing, because I'm able to let my emotions cool before initiating or responding. I'm also able to proofread & reword, so that something that would come out of my mouth harshly can be significantly toned down.)

     ~I don't like untruths, especially when it comes to the Bible. Now, I've learned over the last few years not to engage every error that comes across my newsfeed. But there are times when I feel like my friends need to hear the truth. I try very hard in those times to tell the truth in a loving way, but I am firm. I do see things as black & white, & I don't back down from the truth. I honestly believe that whether we like it or not, truth is truth. (One of those truths [that came up in this instance] is that there is no such thing as "serving a different God". There is one God - the God revealed in the Bible. He is the only way to salvation, & if you don't serve Him, you serve a god of your own making who cannot save you. I may write a blog post elaborating on this later.)

     ~I'm not terribly skilled in the "kid glove" treatment, & tend to opt for a more straightforward approach. (After reading that last point, I can hear the sarcastic, "No! You don't say!" coming all the way from my Mama's house in LA. But it's her fault. I get it from her. ;-) ) I've found that not everyone handles the straightforward approach well. I often feel, though, that the kid gloves water down the truth (which ultimately doesn't help anyone), but sometimes I do better. However, Michael's the one really skilled at putting on those gloves. I probably need to rely on him more.

     ~I tend to believe that everyone has the right to express & defend their view, so I act on that principle. I'm always a bit caught off guard when I interact with someone who wants to have their say & deny me mine (which doesn't happen often, but was the case here). It just doesn't make any sense to me to direct a comment my way, only to get angry when I respond.

     ~Finally, I operate from a framework in which the Bible informs my life rather than trying to use my life to inform the Bible. I believe that the Bible tells me how I'm supposed to conduct myself in every sphere of life, & that I'm to be obedient to that. (Not that I'm perfect, so I'm thankful for the gifts of repentance & forgiveness.) I reject any notion that we're allowed to interpret the Bible according to our own opinions or disregard any part of the Bible that we don't agree with & still call ourselves faithful Christians with a strong faith. This clashes significantly with the postmodern mindset that seems to be prevalent in our society & even among some Christians.

I've prayed a lot over the last few days. I've asked God to help me not be petty & post FB statuses that jab at this person. My flesh wants to, but He has helped me control that. I've asked Him to take away my anger, to forgive me of my anger, & to "renew a right spirit within me". I've asked Him to keep me from the sins of an unrepentant heart when I'm confronted with my sin & an unforgiving heart when I'm sinned against. I've asked Him to help me obey His command to be reconciled to others. I've asked Him to help me be gentle & loving when confronting others' sin & to keep me from self-righteousness lest I become guilty of the same. I've asked Him to help me be more wise before opening my mouth (so I don't step into another hornet's nest or make things worse). Finally, I've thanked Him for forgiving me of my sin & saving me from my sin & His wrath. I'll never be perfect this side of heaven, but how incredible is it that He continues to love & sanctify me so that one day I will be a perfect reflection of His Son! And just like that, the clouds are blown away.  ;-)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

All About Emma

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." ~ Psalm 127:3

By the wondrous grace of God, I get to experience this first-hand daily! Emma is a tremendous "reward", a phenomenal blessing to her Daddy & me! My heart is filled to bursting with joy & love because of her! So, this post? This is all about Emma.

As I write these words, she's sleeping in my arms. I love feeling her chest rise & fall against mine, love the feeling of her warm breath on my neck & her dreamy twitching fingers on my shoulder. Except for a brief stint from 3-8 months, she's never gotten to the point of sleeping on her own. At night, she's never far from my side, sometimes even groggily rolling over & snuggling into my chest in her sleep. At other times, she awakens a bit more & crawls on top of me - a couple of times even going to the trouble of rolling me onto my back so she can complete the endeavor. ;-)  And if I should attempt to get out of bed - say for a "top-of-the-morning-my-bladder-is about-to-burst!" emergency - I must do so ever . . . so . . . slowly, or I'll have some cranky company. Sadly, she will soon find herself going through sleep-training boot camp (of the no-cry variety) so Emma can nap by herself & Mama can keep up with the household chores I'm currently drowning under.

During her waking hours, she is an absolute delight! She loves to dance, & lets you know she wants the music on by bouncing at the knees & stomping her foot. She runs toward the speakers, then laughs & dances with gusto when she hears the music. She loves Sovereign Grace Kids, Brook Hills Kids, & (funnily enough) Shai Linne. She also got in a good dancing session this evening to Dave Carroll's "United Breaks Guitars" trilogy. What can I say? The girl's got good taste! Just this morning, she was dancing to her knock-off "Little People" farm, which was beyond adorable. I would push the doorbell so the music & animal sounds would play, & as soon as she heard it, she started bouncing & jumping (with the windowsill's aid). It doesn't play long, though, so we pushed the doorbell over & over to make it last longer. Yep! Adorable sums it up!

She also likes movies & tries to climb in the pack 'n' play whenever I ask her if she wants to watch one. I let her choose between 2 of them, & I've noticed that she always chooses the one in my right hand. I have no idea why. She loves all of the versions of "Monsters, Inc.", "Toy Story", & "Despicable Me". She snuggles down amongst her stuffed animals (including her 3 feet tall panda bear, Oreo) & watches while I cook, clean, or get a shower. (As a side note, I was totally one of those "my kids aren't going to watch TV" people. You know the ones. Those wise people who know everything about rearing children before actually having them. Yeah. That was me. I know better now.)  ;-)

Reading is one of her favorite pastimes. All I have to do is ask, "Do you want to read a book?", & she drops whatever she's doing, toddles to her play area, & plops down on her mat expectantly. That always tickles me! She happily sits on the floor with me or in my lap & reads book after book. Sometimes she sits right there mesmerized; other times she plays while still listening to me read aloud. I can always tell she's still listening because when I stop mid-way through the book, she looks around at me as if to say, "What happened? That's not the end."

She loves playing with her blocks. We'll build them into a tower, counting as we go, & she gleefully squeals while she knocks them down! Then we do it all over again. She also loves "her babies", be it furry or doll, & is usually toting around one or more. She's very sweet & gives them lots of hugs & kisses. But she also likes to stuff them in the towel basket, hang them over the toilet paper holder, & drop them behind her changing table. Those that aren't strewn throughout the house can be found in her pack 'n' play waiting for movie time, when she lays on & among them, sometimes melding in so well that you can barely see her! She also likes making beautiful music on her xylophone, playing in her tent, dumping out her chunky puzzle pieces (although not necessarily putting them back), turning the lights on & off, sword fighting with spoons, & biting her toes while I shrilly exclaim, "Noooo! Don't eat your toes!" & "Ewwww! Gross!" She thinks that's hilarious!

Emma girl is quite a talker! She regularly says "Mama", "Daddy", "bye", & "baby", & the rest is her adorable baby babble. Just this evening at supper, she said what sounded like "gollygollygollygollygollygollygolly" in her precious little voice. It was seriously cute! Michael sometimes likes to joke that she's speaking in tongues!  ;-)  She's also not afraid to let you know when she dislikes something, especially if it's new. I heard all about it the other night when she observed my new face-washing ritual (she disapproved of the rag covering my face), & she was none too pleased when I washed my hair after bathing her. She stood in front of me in the tub & babbled in a somewhat stern voice to let me know there was to be no more of that!  ;-)

She's started giving sugars instead of just receiving them, even making the smacking sound with her lips. Sometimes she achieves this by putting her upper teeth over her bottom lip & smacking. Other times she makes a fish face. Again, adorable! Perhaps it's because of how we kiss her repeatedly, but she's not one for moderation when it comes to giving sugars, walking a short way away only to double back several times to plant one on you. She's also been having her babies give each other kisses, like her bath time squirting beaver & otter, making the kissing noise for them. Of course, being an animal lover, she hugs the dogs & (tries to hug) the cat. And not to leave anyone out, she gives sugars to the pictures of her Daddy, Mawmaw, & Papa Ray that pop up when we're talking on the phone.

She loves to be chased & caught! Like, seriously, LOVES it! Every time I say, "I'm gonna get you!", she takes off running, her little feet slapping the floor & her little hands waving. She laughs as I chase her & then squeals with delight when I snatch her up & give her sugars. Then I set her down, say, "Run! Run!", & we do it all over, again & again. It never gets old!

She's a wonderful helper, always going out of her way to help me close the refrigerator, dryer, & dishwasher doors. It can be a bit of a problem, though, when it's nice outside & I want to leave the front door open. Invariably, five minutes after I walk away, I hear the door close & see her walking away, triumphant. ;-)  She also picks little things up off the floor to give to us. And if she has something she shouldn't, she may run away when we ask for it, but she (almost) always brings it back to us. Likewise, she brings my phone to me when she hears the cricket chirp informing me that I have a text message, & she hands me my shoes when she sees me putting on my socks. She's such a good, sweet girl!

Emma loves taking a bath & playing with her toys. Her hair has gotten so long that we have to use conditioner to combat tangles & a blow dryer to get it dry. She's not wild about having her hair rinsed twice, & for some reason - 
so long as she's standing - she feels better about the water that inevitably runs down her face. She also doesn't care for the blow dryer & often hides her face in my chest to try to avoid it. She's very good, though, about having her teeth brushed, & she enjoys the homemade (by one of my nieces) lip balm that I slather on her lips afterwards. (Although I do have to remind her to keep her mouth closed, no doubt because the peppermint scent is just too tantalizing!)  ;-)

Speaking of lip balm, she recently discovered a tube of lipstick that I never use. It's a vibrant shade of magenta! (Which is why I never use it, because I feel like a circus clown in it.)  Boy howdy, does she love that lipstick! First she got it out with her fingers - because I'm not about to show her how to turn it! The second time, she used the bulb end of a medicine dispenser. Don't ask me how I'm going to get the lipstick out of that thing. I still don't have a clue. Just last night, she somehow fished the lipstick & a pair of long tweezers off the counter, & I found her on the floor in the bathroom covered in magenta (as were the bath mat & floor)! Each time, she looked at me like, "What's so funny?" as I doubled over laughing at finding her in such a state. She is such a hoot! Obviously, I took pictures!

Our baby girl is a very good eater & tends to eschew more processed foods. Except for chocolate. Oh, my, does this girl like chocolate!! But if you don't have chocolate, give her some fruit, & she'll be happy as a pig in mud. Especially if it's bananas. She lights up like a lightning bug when you offer her a banana! She also loves spaghetti squash with meat sauce, sweet potatoes, steak, & - yes - bacon. Oh! And French fries slathered in ketchup (like her Daddy)! Taco soup, pancakes, & cinnamon rolls, not so much. We gave her Chick-fil-A minis the other day, & she even picked the bread off so she could just eat the chicken! She's a pro now at using her spoon & fork, & loves to be praised for her achievement. She's not shy, either, about getting the applause started if Michael & I are lagging behind. ;-) Despite my best efforts, I've never been able to get her to use her signs, so she just points & makes noises for what she wants. I guess that's her sign. ;-)

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." ~ Psalm 127:3

Truer words were never spoken! Thank You, Father, for our precious, beloved "reward"! We love her more than words can say!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Forgiveness: Are Repentance & Reconciliation Necessary?

Can true forgiveness happen without repentance? Without reconciliation? These are 2 separate yet intertwined questions that I've not only been thinking about, but dealing with lately. One situation is long resolved, the other relatively new & ongoing. My emotions are a tangle of anger, confusion, & hurt, but I'm hoping that writing this will help me sort them out.

In short, I think the answer to both of the above questions is yes AND no. For the first question, I think you can give true forgiveness without the other party's repentance, but it takes time. Time because hurt feelings have to be worked through & gotten over. Repentance, of course, helps speed that process along. Without that acknowledgement of a wrong done & a sorrow over the pain caused, the healing simply takes longer. The time needed also depends on the depth of the wound. Even with repentance this is often the case. Forgiveness, in that case, may be immediate, but the hurt & damage still have to be healed. Just as with any physical wound, healing is not instantaneous. And, as we all know, emotional wounds are often harder to heal than physical ones.

What about reconciliation? I know from personal experience that reconciliation can likewise occur without repentance, but time will again be a major factor. Even then, full trust may never be restored if repentance has never been expressed, again depending on the depth of the wound.

As for the other part of this, do true forgiveness & reconciliation go hand in hand? In other words, can you forgive & not be reconciled to the person who hurt you? I know I sound redundant here, but I think one of the factors - maybe even the main factor - is how deeply you've been hurt. I also think it depends on how often the same person hurts you. If someone displays a habit of causing pain, that is going to be a factor in whether or not reconciliation can occur. There are times when you can forgive a person, but the sin is so grievous (or repetitive) that reconciliation is impossible, unwise, or incomplete.

Here are some examples from my own life to illustrate what I mean. If you know me well enough, you know I was molested as a child. In that situation, I was hurt not only by the molester, but also by two other family members because of their response to the revelation of the molestation. Repentance was never expressed by anyone. It took years - 2 decades, really - but I was finally able to forgive all 3 of them. Two of the relationships have even been restored. I am grateful for this. One relationship - with the molester - will never be restored, nor should it be. I harbor him no ill will, but there are natural consequences to our actions, & destroyed trust is the least of those when you violate someone like that.

The recent & ongoing situation is of a much less serious nature, thankfully. It has been very hurtful to me, though, for a couple of reasons. One, it's a recurring event. Meaning that - particularly over the last few years - this person has caused me some excruciating pain repeatedly. Secondly, this most recent occurrence communicated to me that our relationship is not the close one I had thought it to be. I do believe forgiveness can happen, even if repentance is never expressed, but I don't know that full reconciliation will happen. Or maybe I should say that the fundamental nature of the relationship may have changed from a deeper friendship to a more surface acquaintanceship. At this point, I can't say because my emotions are too raw.

I don't know if any of this makes a lick of sense to anyone, or if it is the tiniest bit helpful to anyone (I hope it is), but I appreciate y'all letting me think out loud (sort of) & try to figure this out for myself. It made me feel a little better to flesh this out a bit. So, thanks for sticking with my rambling. ;-)

Happy New Year!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Being An Example To Our Children

Michael was disgusted this morning as he showed me a video of a group of girls engaged in a popular sexually-suggestive dance while what sounds like a grown man cheers them on. These girls appear to be from around 7 years of age to early teens. I watched in growing horror & disgust as they frenziedly gyrated to this man's enthusiastic encouragement. The whole spectacle was repulsive. It was vulgar. It was disturbing. And it brought home to me the very real responsibility we parents have to protect our children. Of course there's the issue of the pervert videotaping & encouraging these young girls to move their bodies in this way. "No decent grown man behaves this way! What on Earth is wrong with him?! And where are the parents of these girls?!" Such were some of the (quite appropriate) reactions to the video. Obviously, that man needs some responsible fathers to come set him straight, if you catch my meaning. But that aside, we need to remember that these sorts of things don't happen in a vacuum . . . which set me to wondering. How many of those outraged people bring (or allow) into their homes the music of the singers who "dance" this way? How many of them have been entertained by such performances on the T.V. or computer? Our children aren't blind; they see perfectly well what we are entertained by & follow suit. After all, if it's okay for a performer to do it, why not our children? We can pretend there are 2 standards here - one for adults & one for children - but we need to remember that children learn by example. So, when we see our children behaving in certain ways, we always need to look in the mirror first to see where the blame falls. (I'm not denying here the doctrine of original sin, but I am saying that our children observe behaviors in us & others that stoke their indwelling sin & even give it new expressions.) And that leads me to one other facet of this video that bears scrutiny, & that is that this occurred in a group. These girls fed off of & emulated each other. Which underscores how very important it is for us to guard our children from destructive "friends". When we see that our children's friends are teaching & encouraging sinful behaviors, then we should erect barriers between them. That is our job, even if no one else agrees, for our children's good. We have a God-given responsibility to guard & protect our children. Just because we won't be 100% successful in this fallen world does not mean that we shouldn't be diligent in that task. Children are moldable, & their young hearts, minds, & affections have to be protected from any influences that seek to harm them. God has given parents that responsibility, & we will answer to Him for how well or poorly we shoulder it. There is grace when we fail, thanks to our Savior, but it is a solemn task we undertake to raise our children in the fear & admonition of the Lord, & we must work at it to the best of our ability. So, all that is to say that I was very forcefully reminded this week that Michael & I must be oh, so careful what we allow into our home, lest we unwittingly encourage our little blessing from God to choose friendship with the world rather than God because of our example. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rethinking "Working" Mothers

A couple of days ago, Matt Walsh posted on his blog about the animosity toward stay-at-home mothers & how society has it all wrong. Being a stay-at-home mother myself (& a housewife before Emma was born), I've felt the judgment & pressure to "go to work" first-hand from friends & family. So, Matt's post resonated with me, & sharing it sparked a conversation between a friend & myself. As a result, I wanted to take some time to address where I believe Christians are going wrong when it comes to mothers who work outside of the home.

First, I want to be clear that I am not speaking about all working mothers. I am not talking about those mothers who have no choice, who have to help their husbands provide for the family even though their heart yearns to be home with their children.  I am not talking about those mothers who have cut extraneous expenses everywhere they possibly can, who go without cable, the smartphone, the new car, & the bigger house, yet still require her salary to make ends meet.  I am not talking about those mothers who, through no fault of their own, are raising their children by themselves - like my own mother had to - & have to work in order for them to live. Finally, I am not talking about mothers whose children are grown & living on their own. All of these mothers are doing everything they can to take care of their family, & they are right to do so.

But there are an awful lot of mothers who do have a choice, who could stay home & commit themselves to the noble task of being the primary caregiver of their family, but instead choose to work outside of the home because they . . .

     -would "go stir crazy" being "cooped up" at home; or

     -put a lot of time & effort into obtaining their degree & don't want to "waste" their talents at home; or

     -want to be able to live "the good American life" (i.e., cable T.V., iPhone, a new car, a bigger house, designer wardrobe, vacations, etc.).

Amongst unbelievers, these are expected & acceptable attitudes. They have unchanged hearts & unredeemed desires. But those of us who are saved by Christ are to look to God's Word for guidance, not follow the world's "logic". And God tells us that

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." ~Titus 2:3-5 (emphasis mine)

So, the older women are to teach the younger women "what is good", & part of that teaching includes that the younger women are to be "working at home". Why? "That the word of God may not be reviled". Which means if we don't attend to this, the word of God will be reviled.

Now I realize this flies in the face of what our culture proclaims & even what many in the church practice. I am also aware that some - or perhaps even many - of us may not like this teaching. However, our feelings are not the final arbiters of truth, any more than the culture or even our own opinions are. God's Word is, & whether we like it or not, it's quite plain here what God's plan is for His daughters. The world tells us this is antiquated, outdated, primitive. Perhaps. But that doesn't make it less true or right. And, really, when we take off the blinders to get a good look at how living according to the world's standards has destroyed our society, we see that God’s way is also better.

If Christ is our Savior, He is also our Lord. We can't say that He saved our souls from damnation, but has no right to tell us how to live our lives. If we show by our actions that He's not our Lord in this life, then we show that He's not our Savior from God's wrath in the next. As Christians, we know that we "were bought with a price" (1 Cor. 7:23) & are "bondservants of Christ" (Eph. 6:6). As such, we cannot claim freedom of choice over what God has decreed. God has dominion over every facet of our lives. Our responsibility as Christians is to prayerfully search, study, & meditate upon His Word so that we may discover His will & then act on it.

I'm not saying this is easy. Anyone who has read their Bible knows that we are told that following Christ means going against the world's "wisdom" & enduring hardships. What this looks like changes from person to person & family to family. For us, it's meant hearing repeated questions from family & friends about why I'm "wasting my talents" by "not working". . . & when I will be. It's meant not going on vacations that we felt an almost desperate desire for. It's meant not having cable (or even a T.V.) or a smartphone until this past year. It's meant making do with older clothes, & eating at home (although not as much as we should). It's meant not buying a new car (because what we have works) or a bigger house (because we can't afford it on one salary). It's meant distinguishing between needs & wants. It's meant sacrifice. It's not easy, but the trade-off of being home taking care of Emma - & knowing that I'm obeying God to His glory - are both so very worth it. No matter what we do, in the end, all mothers - whether working outside of or at home - sacrifice something (or someone). But it occurs to me that this sort of sacrifice, the kind where we give up some "things" in exchange for always being with our little one(s), is always worth the reward.

So, all that is to say that for those mothers who do have the choice to stay home with your children, you should make the sacrifices necessary to do so. Not because I think so, but because God says we should be "working at home". And if we claim Christ as our Savior, we must also submit to Him as our Lord.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learning Lessons

There are all kinds of things I thought I knew about parenting (especially when it came to sleeping) . . . & then I became a parent!  ;-)

I just knew that babies sleep all the time, so it would be no problem to follow everyone's advice to "sleep when she sleeps". Then I had Emma, who seemed to have a built-in radar that alerted her every time I tried to sleep. I don't think she slept more than 30 minutes at a time for the first couple of weeks. I cried a lot because of sleep deprivation, & Michael said, "I thought babies were supposed to sleep" very often.

I just knew that it was easy peasy to get babies to sleep on their own. Then I had Emma, who always wanted to be held while she slept. Which is why she woke up every half hour when she was a newborn. I learned to hold her on my chest while we slept just so we could sleep, & I remember feeling so blessed when I was rewarded with 2 straight hours of sleep as a result. We finally tried putting her to sleep in our hand-me-down musical swing, & that thing was a miracle worker! As long as it was on, she slept. Which means we went through a lot of batteries, because she slept in it all night every night - plus naps - until her feet were hanging over the edge a bit!  ;-)  It was wonderful! If we're ever blessed with more little ones, we'll be getting an electric musical swing for sure!

I just knew that we'd never have a "family bed" & that babies leave parents plenty of time for chores while they nap. Then I had Emma, who slept by herself in her pack 'n' play beside our bed for 3 months before changing her mind quite dramatically. All of a sudden, when she was 7 months old, she simply could not sleep by herself any more. We still don't know what happened, but I followed everyone's advice to "let her cry it out", & was rewarded with a vomiting baby. We continued to try to put her down to sleep, but every single time, we ended up having to clean a vomit-covered baby, bed, & floor (plus ourselves). So, I finally gave up & now she sleeps snuggled up next to (or on top of) me at night & in my arms during naps. It's often inconvenient, but I'm learning to do what I can when I can & not stress about what I can't get to . . . because she needs me, & that's more important.

I just knew that I would be a Mama who got up before everyone else to get a shower & be ready when my family arose every morning. Then I had Emma, who knows when her Mama is not right beside her in the bed & wakes up protesting. One time she even sensed - in her sleep, mind you - that I was fixing to sneak out of the bed, & she woke up long enough to push me back down so she could crawl on top of me. Which, of course, made me laugh!

Actually becoming a parent opened my eyes to all of the things I thought I knew, but didn't. Emma's taught me plenty more lessons than are expounded upon here, & many more are to come, I have no doubt. But there is one more lesson that she teaches me every day, & it's the most important one of all.

I just knew that having a baby would be one of the most profound, most rewarding, most life-changing blessings of my whole life. Then I had Emma, who proved me right even beyond my wildest dreams. She has been such a joy, & each day my love for her grows . . . which always astounds me because my heart almost bursts with love & you wouldn't think it could hold any more! Yet it always does! She has shattered so many of the things "I just knew" about parenting before she came along . . . & I couldn't be happier.

*Note:  This is a light-hearted post about how Emma has changed some of my pre-conceived notions about parenting. I am not looking for advice on how to get Emma to sleep on her own. We're happy with our arrangement for now. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rethinking Homosexuality

An old youth group friend of Michael’s recently announced that he’s homosexual. This friend still claims to be a Christian, but is embracing rather than fighting his sin. To be honest, the writing has been on the wall in big, bold, uppercase letters for quite some time, so we’re not surprised. But we are sad. Sad because he’s given up the fight & accepted the culture’s lie that his sin isn’t sin, that it’s just “who he is”, & that he should celebrate it. Sadder still is that he does so in God’s name. Meaning that he is reveling in that which is reviling to God while simultaneously worshiping “God”. I say it like that because, unfortunately, the “God” he’s worshiping is one of his own making & in no way resembles the God of the Bible. And even sadder still, he’s going to take others with him.

Look, I get it. I really do. Although I've never struggled with homosexuality, I have my own struggles with sin. Because of some of the things I was exposed to as a child, I've had to fight against sexual images that have been indelibly burned into my mind's eye. And it's been a war at times! There's a reason that sexual sin is the only sin that Scripture tells us to flee rather than fight. It's incredibly alluring, deceptive, & strong. Which makes it deadly. It's not a foe that we can subdue on our own. And that can be so very wearying. We can get so tired of fighting against it - & often failing - that we just give up & give in. Sometimes we may think we'll give in just this once, just a little. Maybe that little acquiescence will satisfy the urge & it will stop hounding us. But it doesn't. It's got a foothold now, & soon it will take over completely, clutching us in a death-grip. So, we have to keep fighting it. We can't just give up simply because we've been at war with little or no relief for so long. We also can't give in because we've prayed for God to take it away to no avail. After all, are we better than Paul? God told him that "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). We should find comfort & strength here in our fight against sin! We should echo Paul with renewed vigor, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me"!

I know how hard it is to have something be a part of you that others find unacceptable. Honestly, everyone does. Homosexuals do not have a corner on this market. We are all born with a sin nature, every single one of us. And not a single one of those sins is tolerated in society - well, outside of the entertainment industry for some insane reason. But you take any sin - lying, stealing, adultery, anger, murder - none of these are tolerated in everyday life. They're all frowned upon & judged. It may not be comfortable, but it's right. I mean, do we really want to live in a society that encourages our most debased inclinations? I've heard homosexuals give the argument that their sin must be okay because they've "felt this way/had these desires" for as long as they can remember. So have all of us, it's just that our desires are for lying or stealing or venting anger. Go to any preschool & tell me I'm wrong. These innate desires aren't tolerated in toddlers because they're sin. They're wrong. The children have to be taught not only that they should change their behaviors, but how to do so. Homosexuality is no different. Those desires being present your whole life does not mean that it's not sin any more than my temper being with me my whole life means my anger isn't sin. And if you're a Christian, you are commanded - not encouraged or urged - commanded to "put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit" (Romans 8:13, yes, I know I mixed up the order, but the meaning is the same). We're promised, if we do this, that we will live (as in, with Christ in heaven). But we're also promised in the very same verse that if we "live according to the flesh, [we] will die" (as in, go to hell to endure God's wrath). Living a life reveling in our sin, celebrating our sin, & branding our sin "normal"/"okay"/"not sin" is living in the flesh. Whether that sin is anger, lying, or one of the sexual sins, & even if society is suddenly applauding it. And we absolutely, positively cannot live in the flesh and be true Christians. They are mutually exclusive.

Another argument by homosexuals is that "we can't help who we love". But homosexuality is not about love, it's about self-gratification. I know this because God invented love, which means He gets to define it, & He says in 1 Corinthians 13 that

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (emphasis mine)

God has told us repeatedly throughout His Word that homosexuality is wrong, & God always speaks the truth. Since love "does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth", then the person who pursues homosexuality is not pursuing love. Instead they are "insisting on their own way", a way that is in direct opposition to God. This is not love. It's not love toward God. It's not love toward yourself. It's not love toward your "partner". True love means holding fast to the truths & promises found in God's Word. It means that when God says, "This is good", we pursue it & encourage others to do the same. It also means that when God says, "This is evil", we fight it, we flee from it, & we encourage others to do the same. No matter how much we protest, true love will never, ever be found in any relationship where sin is being celebrated. We may not like that, but our feelings are not the final arbiter of truth.

Now, do I believe homosexuals can be saved from their sin? Absolutely! The Bible says so! There is no sin that can't be repented of & taken up by Jesus. There is no sin that He will not forgive & give His righteousness in return. I know there are people out there struggling against their homosexual desires, praying fervently that God will enable them to continue to "fight the good fight" (2 Tim. 4:7). And every day, sometimes every hour, God is giving them the strength to stand firm against their sin. To those men & women who have chosen to believe God's Word rather than man's, I urge you to continue your fight, knowing that you don't battle alone! I know that it is incredibly difficult to ignore the siren's song - especially when society is her backup choir - but God has promised that He has made you a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17). Your old self with your fleshly desires has already been defeated by Christ! I love what He says in 1 Cor. 6:9-11, especially the last half:

"Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (emphasis mine)

And then again in Phil. 1:6, Paul gives us the sweet assurance "that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

You don't have to give in to your sin! God will continue to sanctify you, & one glorious day when you are ushered into His presence, that sin will be completely removed, & you will have to fight it no more! (Which is a good word no matter what sins we may be struggling against!)

Finally, a word to the church. We have failed our brothers & sisters who struggle against homosexuality. We have elevated this particular sin above all others without biblical warrant. We have thumped our Bibles in fury at homosexuality while neglecting to enact church discipline on the adulterers & fornicators sitting next to us in the pew. We have told our brothers & sisters who are struggling against homosexuality that they are going to hell while turning a blind eye to the young woman conceiving a child out of wedlock or the worship leader "having an affair" with the church secretary. All sexual sin is sin, & all of it should be confronted. The cheating spouse, the pornography connoisseur, & the co-habitating college kids shouldn't get a pass just because their sin is heterosexual. All sin is deviant, all sin dishonors God, & all Christians should be confronted in their sin. Lovingly, yes, but confronted just the same.

Then, there are those in the church who have lied to our brothers & sisters struggling with their sin, telling them that it’s not sin & that living a homosexual lifestyle is perfectly fine with God, when Scripture very clearly says otherwise. I know that in doing this you think you’re being loving & supportive, but what you’re actually doing is hastening their destruction. They are speeding toward a cliff, & instead of pulling the emergency break, you’re stepping on the gas! The loving thing to do is help them fight their sin. The whole point of the Gospel is that God loved us when we were yet sinners, & sent His Son to live a perfect life & die an atoning death in our stead so that we would be saved from His wrath & from our sin! Claiming God’s love while living in sin – any sin! – is delusional & damning. If you love someone who is struggling with homosexual desires, then do the truly loving thing & help them in their fight against their sin.

For Christians struggling with homosexual desires, find someone you can trust who will help you fight your sin & who you can also help fight their sin of anger, impatience, worry, etc. Remember to "place hedges" around yourself (to use a Nancy Leigh DeMoss term) to protect you from being tempted in your interactions - such as always meeting in public. And check out these resources from Desiring God & Grace To You. You're not alone, & there is help.