Jul 30 2014

Big Boy Beds

And thus begins another chapter in my motherhood.

My dad promised my boys bunkbeds about a year ago… he’s been working on building them for the last couple months… and last night he brought them over and set them up.

No more crib.

I remember the last time we took that very same crib apart too, and I wept because I did not have much hope left that God would ever grant us another living child.

Well, I haven’t wept this time. Not yet anyway. Because I have seen God’s wonderful works, and I can praise His faithful name even in the midst of another horrible storm. That crib may stay in the basement until I have grandkids, but even if that is His plan, it is going to be okay. (right??) He has been so much more gracious and merciful than I could ever have imagined, last time we took the crib apart. His kindness is everlasting, and I am so thankful for His comforts. I am so thankful that I can rest on His faithfulness that I’ve seen before, so I know that even new difficult things will be redeemed by Him someday, some way. Even though this is kind of painful timing, as Heritage would have been arriving very soon, so we were hoping to be needing that crib for her. Siiiiiigh.

But goodness. What a blessing that we needed new beds. That we have LIFE that requires something like bunkbeds (that were so lovingly and devotedly designed by their grandparents and built by their grandpapa). That we get to use the plural boys, kids, and words like siblings and brothers. Wow. Last time we took down that crib, I did not have that comfort. And while it doesn’t erase the pain, I am the first to tell you that it is a balm, and it is a gift from God.

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Jul 26 2014

My Wounds

I may have written this post a good while ago (not long after Heritage died), but it feels just as fresh, and my wounds are picked open and oozing even now. But the point is this: the wounds are not for naught. These wounds will be redeemed. There is a reason that I can not see. And God wants me to use these wounds for Him, His glory and His Kingdom, and I can not sit here silently licking my wounds in a corner. He calls me to share them, to utilize them, not to waste them.

These wounds scab over, and they will scar someday. The pain and trouble they bring will change over time. That’s what God is in the whole business of doing. And I’m thankful to put my pain to good use.

The scar will be knit into my skin, reminding me that I am not the same as I was before. God tends to scar me over in particular ways, as though He were creating a pronounced alignment within my soul in a single direction, toward a specific goal. Each baby of mine that has died has left me with a gaping wound—and each one has also eventually left me with a pronounced scar. While the scars are most obvious to me—sometimes they even make me a little self-conscious, a little embarrassed, wondering if I stick out amongst the crowd—others notice the scars too. Some people comment on it, some people notice but keep it to themselves. I used to think I had to hide my scars, but now I know better: now I know that God did not give me these scars to be hidden away. They are not something to be ashamed of, but something to be utilized.

And so I wait for the scar—I wait for the relief that it will bring, for the hope it will carry, for the unique way God will use my newly knit skin for His glory. I am crying to Him for this blessing, and I trust His grace to extend to me in the form of healing. I have no control over when or how, but I believe His Word, and I know that His favor is for life, and He delights in bringing mornings of joy following night (Psalm 30:2-5). May I bleed and scab, scar and heal for the greatness of His mercy and the furthering of His Kingdom—may He give me pronounced singleness of direction as I toil for Him, even in this.

To read the rest, hop on over to Mommies With Hope, where I share Wounded straight from my own broken-yet-blessed heart.

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Jul 22 2014

Open Hands, by faith

Published by under Faith,Thoughts

2 Corinthians 5:7
For we walk by faith, not by sight.

What does it mean for me to walk by faith, not by sight?
I’m not talking about a theoretical, or even necessarily deeply theological, interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:7.
I see the context. I know what Paul was talking about, and frequently meditate on the beautiful reality of the resurrection, and how we live out our lives in Christ by God’s grace, believing through faith that Christ rose and we too as His people will rise with Him.

But we love to take this verse out of context, as Christians, don’t we?
It is widely, and wildly, applicable.

So for me, right now, how do I walk by faith when I can not see beyond the tips of my fingers?
I need to walk with open hands.
How do I do that?

BY FAITH.

And walking by faith with my hands wide open is very sanctifying.
May the Lord give me eyes to see and ears to hear, open hands and a heart eager to follow Him ~
even when I can not see where He is taking me, or why He had to choose this path
and even (or especially) when my heart is broken and my face is tear-stained…
because I need Him to take me by the hands and lead me.

And following Him happens by, through, and with faith.
I’m in a season of praying for faith.
Bigger, stronger, deeper, truer, unabashed, open-handed, eye-blinding FAITH.

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Jul 15 2014

My Diet & Me

I realized this morning that I don’t think I ever officially “came out” on my blog here.

I am now “one of THOSE PEOPLE” on a crazy food diet.

Yep. Hello. That’s me over there in the gluten free section at the health food store, scouring ingredient labels for any type of sugar or sweetener. And while I have not quite cut out dairy (I just don’t know if I can do it, because I just don’t know if it would make a difference that would actually make the sacrifice worth it for me at this point in my story), I have spent the last nine weeks diligently watching what food goes into my body.

No gluten. Which is super duper easy these days because it’s such a stinkin fad that there are gluten free replacement options for pretty much anything you could possibly desire to make or eat.

No sugar. And by “sugar” I mean any type of sweetener that is not inherently in whole fruits and vegetables that I’m consuming.
My one cheat on this is a teaspoon of natural maple syrup in my morning coffee. And even that, I’m thinking I may need to cut.

The rest of my family is not on the food restrictions that I am. This, of course, has pros and cons associated with it. Main pro being that I can still cook whatever I want to for them, and I don’t have to deal with fussy little people missing amazing things like graham crackers, brown sugar on oatmeal, lemonade, or Sabbath ice cream. Main con being that I still have to see and smell and serve some pretty enticing things, and I can’t so much as nibble a tiny taste of them.

The gluten and sugar are the two main contingents that I have been focused on eliminating, but to the best of my ability, I have been aiming for a diet that holds to the anti inflammatory diet. And if you know me, you know I am soooooooo not a diet person. This is NOT MY GIG! :)
But my immune system is askew. I have immunological problems lurking beneath the surface that are not responding to treatments. My body is suffering. My heart is breaking. My family is effected. My future dreams are on hold, at the very least.

So while I have yet, nine weeks into this thing, to see or feel or notice any difference whatsoever… on bloodwork, on how I feel, on how I look… I am praying that God would use this small offering to bring blessing, relief, progress, healing, fruitfulness.
Would you pray for God to bless this offering with me?

And while I mostly rely on my own creativity to pull together foods and snacks from what I find in my fridge and pantry, and enjoy browsing Deliciously Ella and Wholefood Simply for additional ideas, if anyone else glances around here with bright ideas, I would love more recipes and ideas. Comment or link away!

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Jul 07 2014

Studying The Promised One

Published by under Faith,Quotes,Reading

It may be a ten week Bible study course, but it was something that I worked through and studied for the last nine months. Last fall, a couple of friends committed to getting together with me twice a month to pursue praying and singing together, and studying the book of Genesis through Mrs. Guthrie’s study called The Promised One. It was such a blessing for me to read, study, prepare, and share what the Lord was teaching me and showing me and reiterating to me through these chapters and through re-reading the book of Genesis again this year. We took it a little at a time, because even though we had the blessing of having a grandma on-hand every time for babysitting all the kids, we were never uninterrupted, and things like starting on time and staying on task didn’t always happen either. :) Regardless of hiccups, I felt so blessed to have the accountability of regularly getting together with a purpose, and the Lord truly encouraged and challenged my spirit through studying His Word, being reminded of the history of His people (who are also my people!), and applying spiritual truths and principles to my life over these recent months.

I knew I would love this book, and the whole Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series actually, even if just because Nancy Guthrie wrote it, and nothing of hers has ever left me coming up dry. I’ve read six of her books so far, and I have two more lined up ready to go. I have never met Mrs. Guthrie (even if I do somehow feel like I have, in my heart), but that is on my bucket list ~ if the Lord ever gives a reasonable opportunity, I want to meet Mrs. Guthrie someday, to tell her how she has ministered to me in my grief, encouraged me toward love and good works, and helped shape some of my ministry and writing opportunities.

In this study on Genesis, I may not have had lots of revelations about things I’d never heard before, but some of the most encouraging reiteration of things I’d read before, heard in previous sermons, or thought of when doing character studies on the patriarchs. Beautiful reminders. And honestly, I think largely because Mrs. Guthrie has also buried children and suffered intense grief, the author thinks along similar wavelengths as I do, and she seems to say things exactly when and how my heart needs to receive them. Good stuff. Especially because through the nine months I was studying through The Promised One, I have been suffering and grieving and revisiting all kinds of old temptations & trials. Covenantal theology is an enormous thing for me, never moreso than right now, and while I don’t know if Mrs. Guthrie and I would line up 100% on our biblical interpretations and theologies, for the most part I really think we do, and I have just found it such an encouraging thing to see covenantal theology throughout so much of this Genesis study. It has really solidified things for me and opened my eyes even further on things I had seen glimpses of before.
Another beautiful aspect is how some of the things I read in this study have been wonderfully parallel to some things I’ve also been reading in A Son for Glory which is a study through the book of Job. Once I completely finish that book (I’m not quite there yet), there will hopefully be a blog about that one as well (it’s super good stuff).
For the last year or so, my husband and I have been utterly astounded by GRACE. Just in awe of God’s grace not only to us, but to His people at large. We have been grappling to get ahold of a bigger and stronger understanding of grace, seeking to soak up His grace so much that we ooze it out on each other, on our children, and on others around us as well. And for the last few months especially, we have really seen God doing such wonderful works in us and in our family, as we have seen and embraced grace from Him, from one another, to one another… to God be all glory! But one of the biggest hallmarks in this Bible study is the overriding theme of grace! So having this book to read and to hammer grace into my head and heart over recent months, right along the same time that my husband and I have been seeking to know and understand and grasp and embrace and overflow grace… well, it’s just one of those “God things” where you know He lines up even the smallest details of our lives. And it makes me so thankful.

So please take a moment to read just a very few wonderful-to-me, although out of context, quotes from The Promised One, and consider it my offering to poke you toward this Bible study series… I am off to begin The Lamb of God next.

“When we have been made new on the inside, it fortifies us to endure the inevitable oldness and deterioration that is a reality of living in these bodies of flesh in a world that still longs to be transformed by this same newness.” (p51)

“To know the favor of God is not to be loved as you are by nature but to be loved for who you are in Christ.” (p101)

“The bigger picture around the ark was that of families on rooftops, struggling and failing to keep their heads above the water, and a sea of floating corpses… It prefigures what will happen to all who refuse to enter into the safety and protection provided in Christ… Because Noah was a righteous man who walked with God, Noah’s heart must have broken as he heard the desperate cries of those who were not safely inside the ark… Rest inside the boat does not come easily unless all those you love deeply are safe inside with you… It can only be saturated in prayer. It can only be sought through diligence on our knees… And ultimately, we pray that it will not be our loved one’s rebellion and resistance that will have the last word in his or her life, but God’s grace and mercy.” (p104-106)

“Noah’s story is the story of a man who walked with God, believed God, waited for God, and depended on God. But sadly, it is also the story of a man who, in the final chapter of his life, dishonored and failed God. Noah is just like us. He not only needed God’s saving grace; he needed God’s sustaining grace.” (p109)

“Like Abraham, we must believe that the righteousness of Christ is sufficient, that it is weighty enough, and that God is good enough to give it to us, who have no real righteousness of our own.” (p162)

“To walk before God is to live in such a way that every step is made in reference to God.” (p185)

“No one who lives by faith continues to live their own way. Grace goes to work in the interior of our lives so that our allegiances are directed by God and our perspectives are shaped by God.” (p186)

“God was faithful in His promises. Abraham received the promises of God not because he and Sarah worked up enough faith on their own to believe God’s promises and hold on to them. It was grace given to them in spite of their doubt and disbelief. God was faithful to Abraham not because of Abraham’s faithfulness but in spite of Abraham’s faithlessness. God kept all of His promises to Abraham, who did not keep his promises to God… The good news of the gospel is that even though we fail in keeping our promises to God, He will keep His promises to us.” (p192)

“Genuine faith is always lived out through obedience. Authentic faith is proven, purified, and strengthened when put to the test.” (p194)

“The point of this story [of Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac on an altar[ is not to convince or convict you that you must be willing to sacrifice for God what is most precious to you. It is that God was willing to sacrifice for you what was most precious to Him.” (p197)

“God’s promises to me are not for this life only. In fact they are not primarily for this life, but for an eternity to come.” (p198)

“Joseph not only knew that God was with him but also was confident in God’s plan to use him. That confidence gave him peace as he waited for God to work out His plan, even as that plan brought him pain.” (p241)

“God’s people would suffer. But it would not e wasted, meaningless suffering. It would be fruitful suffering… Joseph didn’t turn his attention to being fruitful only after the season of suffering was over. In the land of his affliction, in the middle of the struggle, in the heart of the darkness, Joseph was confident that God was at work.” (p243-244)

“He has a purpose and design in what is happening to us from the beginning, and even though what is happening to us might not be good, God intends it all for our ultimate good… We may never see in this life exactly how God is using our loss for good. But just because we can’t see or articulate clearly His purpose in our suffering doesn’t mean He doesn’t have one… Your suffering will one day give way to great glory.” (p250-251)

“While God certainly cares for us and interacts with us as individuals, and His purposes for us are personal, we have to balance that perspective with the truth that the heart of the story of the Bible is God’s dealings not with individuals but with a people — a people He has called to Himself from all the peoples of the earth. So while there is a great deal we can learn from Genesis about how we can expect God to deal with us as individuals, we cannot miss the context, which is that God’s purposes are not primarily about individuals but about His chosen people.” (p280)

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Jul 03 2014

Rays of sunshine

Published by under Life

Three little rays of sunshine in my every day: how thankful I am for their miraculous lives and joyful presence.

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Jun 26 2014

Time rolls on

Time is an ever rolling stream.

How true. Isaac Watts, in beautiful hymnody, hit the nail on the head.
Here and here are his pertinent, poetic reminders.

I am so thankful that God is giving me grace to truly, fully enjoy my three miraculous children right now, even as I so long and pray and work toward adding to that number.

It was a year ago now that we began to seek adding to our quiver ~ really? an entire year already?! yep, it is so.
May God grant me the grace and joy to continue following where He leads with cheerful obedience, regardless of what His time limits or age gaps may be. May I have eyes to see what He sees, to believe what He knows, to embrace what He planned.

Gabriel suddenly seems more grownup all the time at 6 now. I blinked, and suddenly find myself allowing him to do big kid things: stay up later than the littles, ride his bike to Grandmama’s house by himself, play on the computers unattended at the library, go by himself in a men’s public restroom (depending on the place, mind you! small library or church, yes! public mall? probably not…).
Asher is moving completely out of the toddler stage, even though he is just 2 1/2 years old. I blinked, and suddenly he can carry conversations with anyone (mostly being understood, too), can follow directions (even if given more than one at a time), can dress/undress himself, holds a pencil/crayon correctly and can trace decently, and fully embraces his big brotherhood and dotes upon his little sister.
Evangeline, in like speed, has now moved completely from baby to nearly 17 month old toddler ~ somehow I blinked, and it suddenly happened. She never walks if she can run (don’t even mention crawling, hah), she tries hard to communicate (and doesn’t do a stellar job yet, but certainly lets you know if you didn’t catch her drift!), likes to be right in the thick of it with her big brothers, is tough and stubborn and opinionated, can identify all kinds of things (from baby doll to ball to book to belly button to blankie to shoes to outside to cow…), and is finally really catching on to routines in various venues (library, worship service, even praying before meals now finally isn’t a fight to get her to hold hands & be still).

These children are an incredible gift. Nobody could be more humbled by it or thankful for it than I am.

So as the stream continues to roll, may the Lord give me grace to jump in and splash around, body and heart and mind and soul, trusting in Him as my hope, my help, my guard, and my home. May He grant me contentment with where He has me, but never complacency; may He give me passion to keep pushing forward, but restrain me from asking for the reins. Amen.

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Jun 17 2014

This is where I live

I feel like this picture captures so much of my life at the moment.
Of course this is actually my yard/view so this is truly where I spend my life.
And much of it is spent in my husband’s arms.
Some of it is spent smiling, some of it is spent trying to smile.
And while so much of it is spent in the storms right now, there are rainbows, and I seek to bask in that reflected glory.

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Jun 10 2014

He’s the Daddy of Twelve

One thing I adore about my husband is how much he loves his children. All twelve of them. I love how being father of 12 is one of the top things he would describe about himself (for instance, in his Twitter intro), in true Psalm 127:5 form. And it was basically seven years ago that he became a father for the first time… although it would be a couple more weeks until we knew about it.

Today, you can read at Mommies With Hope, about the heart of my husband as I see it, and as I see him, in his fatherhood and his imitation of his Father in Heaven.

This Father’s Day, I want to honor my husband for the father that he is—the father of twelve. I want to praise the Lord for His compassion toward us, for His provision, for remembering our frame. I want to bless my husband and bless our Father in Heaven for their love and their servanthood. I want to tell the world about the heart of a daddy—one that rejoices fully, grieves deeply, loves steadfastly, shows compassion, gives abundantly—the heart of God Himself, also reflected in the human form of my husband, thanks to God’s grace and God’s gifts. The Lord is King and rules over all things from His throne in Heaven, and whether your arms are full or empty (or both…) this Father’s Day, it is my prayer that the fatherly heart of God would extent His compassion and love toward you—that you too would know His Kingship both in the valleys and on the mountaintops.

Darling Steven, I love you, and am so thankful that God chose you  to be the father of my dozen little darling olive branches. I love seeing God in you. I love seeing you in my babies. I love that you walk with me just as tenderly in grief as you do in joy. This Father’s Day will not be all about “happy” ~ but it will definitely be all about thankfulness and honor for the journey God has given you in your fatherhood. It’s been glorious: in the valleys and on the mountaintops, each in their own ways. Cheers to you, my Steven, and may God grant you more arrows in your quiver and more Father’s Days for God’s glory.

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May 22 2014

Eulogy for Fidelis Se’arah, by Daddy

Guest-posting on my blog today is my sweet husband, the faithful daddy of my twelve children. Here he shares his heart, his faith, his God, and his youngest child with you.

 

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Dear friends and family,

Once again, we must bring hard news. Once more, we mourn in the dust, and our sorrow is great. Grieve with us for our child who now joins 8 siblings in the heavenlies. Though we here on earth mourn, the church triumphant welcomes a new member. God is true, and He is good. Gabriel’s prayers have been reminding us of God’s sovereignty and goodness in taking this baby to His bosom into life forevermore.

We have named this little saint Fidelis Se’arah. Fidelis means faithful. Se’arah means whirlwind or tempest. As God has brought us along this path, these two themes have been coming closer and closer together in our experience and understanding.

God is faithful – completely, absolutely, to the uttermost – even through life’s strongest storms. He will never leave us or forsake us. Likewise, we are called to faithfulness in the face of the whirlwind. Like Job, who was a faithful son of God in the midst of trials and tribulations, we are to face such times with sorrow, heartache, trust, and worship.

And finally, in many senses, God is a faithful whirlwind. At the end of Job, God speaks to Job from out of the tempest. Literally, the form God took to speak to Job was a whirlwind. He is the One who authors hardships and spins sorrow, all to shape vessels of clay into sons for glory, lumps of iron into crowns of gold. Though the fire burns, it is meant to burn off the dross that we might shine as gold. God is faithful and true even as the whirlwind.

And so now, we rejoice through bitter tears of lamentation. We worship through broken dreams. We know that our child now partakes in fullness to overflowing of the bounty of the richness of God’s grace. And we here look ahead in hope to the resurrection, to the death of death, and to life after the storm.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

May our God continue to pour out His comfort, love, and peace. And may we be faithful to stare into the storm unflinching, ready to be changed by it.

To God be the glory.
Steven, Melissa, Gabriel, Asher, Evangeline ~ and our nine saints triumphant

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