Faith

Overwhelming Peace

The past few days have been full of strides forward with a few steps back, but through all of it I smile and laugh and sing. I am able to have such a positive attitude, because I am so full of hope!

I have been looking for the right words to express how I’ve felt since Jameson’s unexpected birth, but then stuff just keeps hitting me and I haven’t had a chance to really sit down and write it out.

Normally I am a “freaker” as in I freak out and jump to worse case scenarios and get all emotional. Everything that has happened since the morning of Jameson’s birth would typically be a freaker’s worst nightmare, but surprisingly I have been ridiculously calm. It’s been strange for me, because I think about the situation and feel like I should be upset or enraged or sad, but I’m just not… don’t get me wrong, I have moments where I breakdown, but during the thick of it, I just take it all in, give it to God, and move forward.

It’s so much more than just holding it together for my family. It’s more than putting on a brave face. It’s more than not letting the medical professionals see me weak. It’s more than faking it till you make it.

I can honestly say that I am not faking any of my smiles or laughs or positivity. I can smile because I know that God is in control. I can laugh because I know that prayer is powerful. I can be positive because I know that the peace of God surpasses all understanding.

God has heard our prayers and he has been answering them. It has been so helpful to me to write out our specific requests, but to also acknowledge the praises as well. He has provided us so much support in family, friends, and even strangers. From having our grass mowed to providing food through eating with us or giving gift cards to pet sitting to encouraging words to helping us run errands. We are so grateful to the extended community who has come forward and let us know they are praying with us! Seeing God work can really boost your mood! 🙂

As a freaker, my behavior in this situation has been life-changing. I am proud of myself for choosing to trust God. I am proud of myself for choosing to send out prayer requests instead of wallowing in thoughts of “why” and “what ifs”. I am so happy that God has turned me into a person who hopes instead of freaks.

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Here are some verses that have been giving me comfort during this time:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” – Jeremiah 17:7

“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” – Psalm 16:7-8

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

“But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” Psalms 56:3

Uncategorized

It’s Okay to Cry

The one who falls and gets up is so much stronger than the one who never fell. -La La Anthony

In difficult circumstances – like the ones my family is dealing with now – I am strong. I am strong for my children. I am strong for my husband. I take it all in… the fear, the unknown, the medical jargon. I try to understand every bit of it. I process it and spread the information. I ask for prayers. I get complimented for handling everything so well.

But that is not easy and it’s not always.

At 6am on Saturday morning I lost it. I had only slept for a couple of interrupted hours. I was tired, exhausted, drained, stressed. Jameson was refusing to eat. He was upset and crying. I was upset and crying. The stress was weighing on me. The sleep deprivation was weighing on me. The seriousness of the situation was weighing on me. I talked to my mom on the phone and let it all out. She called reinforcements to help settle me down and keep me calm.

At 3pm on Tuesday afternoon I lost it. I sat at our kitchen table after being home the night before for a shower and to go to my postpartum check-up. I just stared off into space as my eyes teared up. My mom brought me a plate of potato casserole – my first home-cooked meal in four days. My eyes got too full and the tears started streaming down my face. I think at one point I was crying because I was crying. It is so hard, because it felt wrong to be at home, but then I felt guilty for feeling that… like I am neglecting Jameson when I am at home, but neglecting Hazel when I am at the hospital. It is so hard, because Hazel is not allowed at the hospital, only two people can be in Jameson’s room at a time, and only one parent can spend the night. It can be lonely and overwhelming. It is so hard, because it seems like Jameson is getting better only to learn a day later that he needs more help. It is so hard, because I keep receiving ‘explanation of benefit’ letters, but no actual bills, and we are living off a salary and a half due to maternity leave. It is so hard, because I have a buried fear of losing another baby. It is just so hard.

I know there is light at the end of this tunnel, but it’s ok to breakdown, to cry, to lose it. It helps release stress and clear your mind. What matters is that you get back up and you keep moving forward. You don’t have to have it all together all the time. Humble yourself, ask for help, accept help, be honest about your feelings, pray.

Faith

Choosing Obedience Over Comfort

Christians love to claim that they are growing in their faith and exclaim that God is working in their lives. Having grown up in church surrounded by modern Christian culture, I used to fall in the trap of saying all the things I thought I was supposed to say, but not really acknowledging or sharing the details of how my faith was growing or what God was doing in my life. And because of that I had a faith that was stale and all for show. I was a Christian, because I had always been a Christian.

This year has been all about humbling myself and seeing my walk with God for what it is, so that I can genuinely grow in my faith and experience life change. Becoming a prayerful and trusting woman (and family) has not been the easiest of transitions, but in this short time God has really shown up in the coolest of ways! One of the ways I am keeping myself accountable is by sharing openly about how God is working in and through me.

A couple weeks ago, I shared how God completely healed my broken heart in a month and I am excited to say that He didn’t stop there. For awhile now, Jeremiah and I have felt very convicted to start giving, but we just didn’t know what that was supposed to look like. So we began to pray.

At first it felt really awkward to be praying about giving. The answer seemed obvious – just start giving. But we really wanted guidance on how much to give, where to give said amount, and to make sure we were giving for the right reasons. So our prayers morphed from letting God know we want to start giving into specific requests for direction on how much, where, and why. I’m still pretty new to keeping my eyes, ears, and mind open to how God might send His answer to my prayer, so I got so excited when I started to make connections between what we were asking for and what was happening in my life.

After a week or so of praying specifically, I was reading my daily chapter from the Bible, God let me know that He heard my requests for direction. That day, I was reading 2 Corinthians 8 which just so happens to be about “The Collection for the Lord’s People” – coincidence… I think not.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own… And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. -2 Corinthians 8:3,5

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. -2 Corinthians 8:12

At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. -2 Corinthians 8:14

These verses told me that God was glad to hear that we had felt the need to give on our own and then He told us that because of our willingness, what we give will be accepted and be plenty. How encouraging!! After reading that, I was so giddy and immediately called Jeremiah to tell him how the verses had connected to what we had been asking for and that we had to keep praying. I then immediately sent up a prayer of thanks and then continued to ask for more direction.

The next day, I read 2 Corinthians 9 – which has a big focus on generosity. As I read, I got more and more excited.

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. -2 Corinthians 9:7-8

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. -2 Corinthians 9:11

God had reiterated the importance of giving because you want to and are excited to. He also told us that giving opens up a space in our lives for him to bless abundantly and make sure we have all we need. So much encouragement in reading that! God also answered our question of what our ‘why’ should be for giving – our generosity will show thanksgiving to God. I again immediately called Jeremiah to tell him what God had shared with me.

We had been regularly attending our church for a few months and were slowly becoming more and more involved there. This year, they announced Missional Move: Hope for the City. Basically, they want to create harbors (church campuses) and hope carriers (followers of Jesus). Harbors are where followers of Jesus can unload and refill, so they can carry the hope of Jesus out to all areas of life. I have experienced many times churches asking their congregations for money to reach some kind of goal and most of the time it seems selfish and not God-centered. I really liked this idea and loved how much prayer and thought had gone into it. They are wanting to open four new campuses in the metroplex, so that lost people cannot escape the hope of Jesus in our area.

I had felt a slight tugging that this was the ‘where’ we were supposed to give, but I wanted to be sure it wasn’t just me getting caught up in the idea and the emotion. For the next couple weeks, I asked God to make it obvious if we were supposed to give to our church’s missional move.

During those weeks, I had started crunching the numbers in our bank account to figure out how much we could realistically give. After doing that, I became very discouraged. With our baby on the way, we had so many extra expenses that have to be paid in the next couple months and I just wasn’t sure we could swing it. I felt so ashamed that I had gone from being so excited to give to so scared to take the leap. I admitted to God how I was feeling and that maybe we should wait until after the baby is born to start, so that everything could be paid and we wouldn’t be stressed out in such a vulnerable time. But now my shame was stressing me out. I began to pray that God would take these negative, fearful thoughts away.

A few days before our church’s “commitment weekend” for the missional move, Jeremiah and I decided that obeying our conviction to give and having trust that God would provide was more important than having enough to pay all our bills and expenses, so that we could feel safe and comfortable. We prayed and told God of our decision. Literally the NEXT day, I received a call from my boss informing me that I had been promoted. With my promotion came a raise and a bonus that would cover one of our baby expenses in full.

I can’t even describe how amazing this whole situation was. I was ready to give into my fear and ignore this call to give, but instead made the hard choice to choose obedience and trust and God blessed that by doing exactly what he said he would in 2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

Faith, Pregnancy Loss

A Miracle On My Street

Over the last couple of months, I have opened up about experiencing a miscarriage, struggling to overcome all of the emotions that accompany such a loss, and taking the needed steps to move forward.

For months I didn’t want to make any changes. I just wanted to live in my sadness and my anger, because it was easier to hide in the dark than fight to see the light. But at the very end of the year when I was at the halfway point of my current pregnancy, I felt this intense need to break free of the pile of bricks pinning me down. I realized that even though I was mourning the baby I had lost, I had another healthy baby living inside of me. At first I was discouraged, because I just kept thinking I was too far gone, but when I opened up my heart to God, He assured me no one was too far gone for Him.

After I opened my heart back up to God, I started to choose Him instead of my sadness, anger, confusion, and guilt. I chose to go to church every Sunday morning whether I felt like it or not. I chose to join a small group even though it is scary to meet new people. I chose to expose my deep, ugly parts to these strangers. I chose to ask for help and prayer. I chose to begin reading a chapter of my Bible every day. I chose to pray for healing, understanding, forgiveness, purpose, peace, and clarity. I chose to take little steps every day toward trust and toward light… and God showed up for me!

While doing some self-reflection, I realized what a complete 180 my heart has made in the past month. In thirty-one days, God took an angry, bitter, brokenhearted woman and turned her into a woman with a humble and hopeful heart. It wasn’t easy to be open to what God had to show and teach me regarding my loss, but I would like to share the clarity and understanding I began to see when I started to really pay attention.

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He blessed my attendance.

I have been burned by church after church, so going to church is never something very high on my to-do list regardless of how convicted I feel about attending. After many lengthy discussions, Jeremiah and I made the decision to go to a church service every Sunday. Although it was emotional and difficult the first couple of visits, I felt my heart being softened every time we showed up. The second Sunday in January, we were sitting in service and it was all about moving into this new year and what that looked like for you. God made it very clear that he was calling me to not let my loss from last year dominate my focus this year.

Just because you don’t understand, doesn’t mean you can’t move forward. -John Stickl

While thinking about what would hold me back from experiencing what God has in store this year, I knew without a doubt it would be my loss and the fear, distrust, anger, and insecurities that came with it. Now that I recognized what I needed to work on, God was calling me to lift it up in prayer and ask Him for help in my healing.

He blessed my obedience.

I had known for awhile that Jeremiah and I were being called to join a small group. It had been on my mind for months before we finally showed up for the first time. I didn’t necessarily have a bad attitude about going, but I still felt insecure about the idea. I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in, be able to open up, or get anything out of it, but God laughed at my notion. That first night, we were the first couple to arrive and had a good fifteen minutes of conversation with the host couple before anyone else showed up. After that initial conversation, I knew that I couldn’t worry about not fitting in anymore, because I knew that I already did. As the evening got started, it was plain to see that this was a group centered around vulnerability and honesty, so I couldn’t worry about not being able to open up, because I knew it would be my choice not to. And at the very end, they began a couples’ prayer accountability group, where we would all share what we are praying for as a couple, pray for each other throughout the week, and give updates on how things are going. When it got to me, I knew that I couldn’t worry about not getting anything out if it, because God told me I was brave enough to share.

He blessed my courage.

After sharing during group – which was one of the hardest things I have ever chosen to do – a sweet, new friend came up to me, gave me a hug, and offered some advice that helped her through her own loss.

The baby you lost has only ever known perfect love. The baby you lost has only ever known the perfect love of its Heavenly father.

I had never thought about it that way. It felt to me that my baby didn’t get to feel love, but that’s because I was only thinking of the love that we would have provided. But as much as we would have loved on that little baby, it would have been nothing compared to the love it is experiencing in Heaven.

He blessed my perseverance.

Starting in January, I began to follow along with our church’s reading plan of reading one chapter a day. Fifteen days in, I came across this passage from the story of when Jesus healed a man who was blind from birth.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. -John 9:1-3

This passage spoke to me in two different ways. The first being that what happens in life (being blind or losing a child) isn’t because we have sinned. After we lost our baby, I blamed myself and then I blamed God. I assumed this awful thing had happened, because of something I had done and then I blamed God for taking it out on our baby. But once I read this passage (and I have read it over and over), I realized that it had nothing to do with me at all, but that God wanted to use this situation for His will.

And I believe that will was to bring our family back to Him. Although we were going to church before our loss, we weren’t actively seeking God. We weren’t reading our Bibles, praying regularly, discussing the sermons, or building strong relationships. We were stale; going through the motions of being “good people,” not Godly people. I think God knew this was the wake up call I needed to see that we were not on the path He intended for us.

He blessed my prayers for clarity.

One of my biggest setbacks was lack of understanding. I didn’t understand how a father could take away a child, so I began to pray every day for clarity. I wanted to be able to see and understand my situation from God’s perspective. I learned that:

We were all created by God.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. -Psalm 139:13-14

Your hands made me and formed me… -Psalm 119:73

We all ultimately belong to God.

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. -1 Peter 5:2-3

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. -Psalm 100:3

For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. -Romans 14:8

So our baby that we lost was created by God and belonged to God first. God entrusts us – as parents – with his children to love them, raise them, and care for them, but they are His, just as we are His.

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I fully believe that God worked a miracle in my heart during the month of January. I am amazed when I look back at the lies I was telling myself and the despair I was drowning in at the end of last year to the hope for the future that I have now. God humbled me to recognize where I was going wrong and gave me the push and the courage to start making changes. This is one of my life mountains that I was only able to climb by looking to God. I hope this gives you some kind of encouragement that if you choose to choose God, He will show up for you!