Guarding Against Grumbling

When it comes to sin in our life, sometimes we attempt to overlook or give excuses for our behavior if we feel like our actions are justified because of our circumstances. For example, when I am sleep deprived, my flesh thinks it perfectly acceptable for me to deal out a hefty dose of sarcasm to my seven-year-old who has asked me the same question twelve times before my morning coffee or to murmur under my breath that I can’t believe my husband left his glass of milk from the night before on the floor again and, of course, the toddler just dumped it all over the living room right on cue.

But those actions do not glorify God, and they are rooted in sin. If I am a child of God, His Spirit will bring conviction to my heart with His word because it is my heart that needs attention and change. When I’m tempted to complain, which we are all naturally prone to every single day, this passage from Philippians 2 comes to mind to bring truth to my heart:

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:14-15, ESV).

As God’s children, we are not to grumble. We must remember that, ultimately, grumbling is complaining against the sovereign God of the universe and saying He isn’t good, which is sinful. When we complain, we should repent, reset our mind by thinking on things above, and rejoice and give thanks to God for His graciousness towards us. There are new mercies available to us every single morning. Perhaps it would be a beneficial habit to create a daily list of things that you are grateful for to help cultivate a heart of contentment and gratitude. Despite hardships and inconveniences in our life and relationships, we are called to rejoice and find our joy in Christ. It all comes down to the attitude and posture of our heart. 

How about your attitude when you disagree with someone, or they have offended you? When you are in a disagreement with someone, do you want to be right more than you want to pursue unity with that person? Do you allow a bad attitude to drag you into unnecessary arguments or even gossip to complain to someone else instead of going directly to the person who you are annoyed or upset with? Disagreements are inevitable, but most of all, God cares about our attitude during disagreements and doesn’t want us to be swept up in foolish arguments constantly. We can disagree with others without being disagreeable or prideful.

If we are entangled in senseless disputing and complaining, the world has trouble seeing the light of Christ in our life. We see in verse 15 of Philippians 2 that the Lord wants Christ followers to shine bright in a culture full of darkness. Our lives are to be a brilliant beacon of light in the darkness as we stand as God’s children against the wickedness of the world. 

“…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:15, ESV).

One way we can protect ourselves against complaining and empower our hearts to shine bright for Christ is to be diligent to cling daily to the Word of life so that we can thrust it into a dark world. The Word of God helps us to renew our mind so we can cultivate the fruit of the Spirit and stand out in the world, pointing others to the hope that we know in Jesus. In addition to our daily time in the Word, we must abide in the Vine by communing with Him daily. We can call upon the name of the Lord to cry out for help when we are tempted to complain and grumble. He is our ever-present help in time of need and is faithful to strengthen us.

Father God,

Although it is easy to find excuses for the reasons of my behavior, I know Your Word is very clear about the posture of our heart and attitude, especially when it comes to circumstances that are difficult, stressful, or even painful. You care about the condition of our heart and the attitude that we exude because as Christ followers we are to look and behave differently. People are watching all the time how we react when we are offended or struggling under the weight of the cares of life. I ask that You would first and foremost, give me a hunger for more of Your Word. I know that is where my mind is renewed; The Word helps me cultivate the fruit of the Spirit and walk in obedience. Help me to guard my heart and avoid grumbling and complaining and arguing with others. I ask for a spirit of gentleness and peace with others so that I can pursue unity and be grateful for all the good gifts from You. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Weeping in the night, Joy in the Morning

I am convinced that sleep deprivation from the baby/toddler phase is the mom version of fasting. My flesh becomes so weakened and my reliance upon God becomes absolutely everything. I cannot help but rely on His grace to do pretty much anything. If you count third trimester lack of sleep from the uncomfortableness and countless trips of waddling to the bathroom, I literally haven’t slept through the night in almost two years. This isn’t hyperbole- my 17-month-old has NEVER slept through the night. My middle son took 25 months to do so- which was only six months before my youngest was born. It’s been an extremely physically and mentally (and often emotionally) trying season that has lasted years.

I don’t share all of this to complain or receive sympathy or ask for advice. I share to remind you (and myself) that the Lord is near to those suffering and in that suffering, He brings unspeakable joy that is not dependent upon our circumstances. No matter how overwhelming it may feel, His grace is sufficient in your weakness. Lean upon Him, and He will strengthen you and transform you in your suffering to look more like Him.

When I was praying the other night in the midnight hours during the on and off wakings (awakened every one-two hours because of his teething pain and what I can assume is the 18 month sleep regression), I said “God, I know he is a gift…please help me.” And as I reflect upon this trying season, I’m realizing the ways my son is a gift from the Father, along with all my children, of course. I cannot help but praise God in the midst of my pain for the Lord’s faithfulness to me. Even though my circumstances have not changed, He is changing me. I am encouraged by these verses in Psalm 30 to give thanks and remember that joy always comes in the morning:

“Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, And give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.”

Psalm 30:4-5, NASB

When my flesh is weak because of the difficulties that come with this season of motherhood, and I am humbled to my knees, by God’s grace, I am able to bear fruit and walk in the Spirit in a way that pleases the Lord. Instead of asking God to rescue me from my weeping and struggles with my son’s sleep, I find myself thanking God through tears of joy for this sleep deprivation. Suffering is a gift and with it comes joy and a heart full of praise to God for His faithfulness. May we ask the Lord for eyes to see our suffering in that way.

Heavenly Father, I’m weary and hurting. I have asked so many times for this suffering to be removed and for You to rescue me from this storm. I feel depleted. I feel like I’m drowning. But I realize that You have not called me to live by my feelings or by what I see happening around me; You have called me to walk by faith. And as my faith in You rises up in me, I trust that You have me exactly where I am supposed to be- totally dependent upon Your grace. In my weakness, I know that You are my strength. I praise You in my pain, and I ask that You would use this trial, this suffering, this storm to change me to look more like Christ- all for Your glory. I know that I may endure weeping in the night, but Your joy always comes- a joy that is not dependent upon my circumstances but is everlasting and sustaining even in the darkest of nights. Thank You for Your nearness to me in my greatest time of need and pain. You are a faithful Father, and I am so thankful to receive Your mercy and be called Your child. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Raising Tiny Disciples

I have been studying parenting styles recently, and it has helped me better understand myself as how I grew up and how I want to raise my three boys. In my understanding, raising kids with an intentional lack of guidance (“do whatever makes you happy” kind of mentality) causes more harm to them in the end. Children need guidance from their parents, especially when they are young and don’t fully understand the world around them yet. “Free-range”-style parenting is actually quite harmful to the psyche of a child; they are children, not chickens.  

Parents, we should not be afraid to lovingly, yet firmly, set boundaries and tell our kids no and why, especially if you know it may become harmful or damaging to them now and even later in life, as small habits can form into behavior and behavior can form into lifestyle.

They may be frustrated at you for a time, but honestly, it is the most loving thing a parent can do. I truly believe your children will thank you for it when they get older. We are raising the next generation…what do we want our world to look like as our children grow up?

It is our job as parents to teach and guide our children and protect them the best we can. I know for me, as a mom, I most definitely cannot do this without God’s grace and wisdom. Learning from what He has to say about parenting has been so much better than all the world’s advice could offer me. The book of

Proverbs is full of wisdom and a familiar verse from chapter 22 gives us direction as parents:

Train up a child [d]in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6, NASB

There is only one right way and that is God’s way, which is the way of life. Early training secures lifelong habits and parents must be diligent to guide their children, teaching them God’s Word and enforcing it with loving discipline raising the child in the admonition of the Lord. The world is ready and willing to disciple your children, especially when are young and impressionable. It is best that they are discipled by you as the parent instead. It is loving to give your children boundaries and rules to follow, which will help shape their independence so they can make good decisions while they are still young. You are not alone in your parenting journey. There will be hard days and simple, strife-free days. May the Lord give you wisdom so you can steward the lives He has entrusted to your care! 

Heavenly Father, I know that You do not want children to raise themselves. You have given children parents to train them in good, godly habits that will help shape them as adults. Most importantly, help me teach them more about You and glorious gospel. My hope is that they will long to love You and live for You all the days of their lives, spreading Your truth and love to the world and raising up the next godly generation. I lean on Your grace and ask for Your wisdom every single day. Thank You for guiding me and caring for me as Your child. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Where are my Titus 2 ladies at?

“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, ESV).

I am the only born-again Christian in my immediate family. Although we did have a Bible in our home, it was more of a centerpiece on the coffee table; It was occasionally wiped down when dust collected on it; it wasn’t ever opened or read, obviously. I don’t have memories of my family praying before meals or hearing about Jesus from any of my relatives or grandparents. Sadly, I didn’t have a “praying grandma” who lead me in the faith. 

So, when I became a follower of Christ at age 22, the road was definitely a lonely one for me. I felt very misunderstood and different from the rest of my family members for a very long time, and still do to be quite frank. I’m so thankful for the Christians friends the Lord placed in my life who encouraged me and prayed for me on my journey with Christ, but I have always longed for someone older in the faith to mentor me and this still seems to be the case in my life, sadly.

I read Titus 2 with a longing in my heart, wondering if I could ever have a mentor relationship with a woman like this:

“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, ESV).

You can hit Google, YouTube, and social media for older women in the faith, of course, but I want to move beyond online connections and would love a one-on-one personal mentor that I can enjoy conversation about Jesus and the Bible over coffee. It seems that our generation is settling for online connections (which are wonderful too) but there is more to be found in doing life together. Where are the Titus 2 women, I find myself asking.

Since it is something that should be found in the context of the local church, and we are once again new members at our current church because we recently moved to a new state. Instead of being tempted to complain about this lack in my life, I am reminded that I must go to God in prayer, especially when it seems so out of reach for me to find a mentor who can come alongside of me and teach me to love my husband and children and love Jesus and His Word even more. 

We are living in a very isolated time all over the world. So many of us are lonely and looking for connection. We were created to be in relationship with one another, especially in the Body of Christ. The “metaverse” will never replace the real-life universe where we are there for one another to bear one another’s burdens, pray for each other, and spur each other on in the faith, face-to-face.

The call for women in Titus 2 is one that is important within the church and one that our society desperately needs. We need godly women strong in the faith to raise strong, godly children with strong, godly marriages. Families like this could change the world for Christ! 

Do you find yourself longing for a mentor who has walked with Jesus for a long time, maybe decades longer than yourself? Does it seem impossible to meet someone like this? Well, let me remind you that nothing is impossible for God! The Father knows the desires of our heart, especially desires that line up with His Word, and He wants those desires to become reality for you. Instead of growing discouraged and tempted to complain, let us run to the Father and pray that we would see this relationship of a mentor fulfilled in our life, not just for us but to ultimately, give Him glory and see the Gospel advanced.

Father God,

I am finding myself lonely on my walk with Christ. I look for others to encourage, evangelize, and disciple who may be younger in the faith, but I long for a mentor who can come alongside me and teach me more about You and how to be a godly woman, one who loves her husband and children so deeply. It may feel impossible to find, but I trust that nothing is impossible for You, God. Thank You for hearing my prayer and I believe I will see this desire of my heart fulfilled because it is something that you call women to do for each other. I pray You would raise up women who reflect those found in Titus 2 all for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Finding the Blessing in the Blissful Chaos of Motherhood

As a mom of three boys, my “quiet-time” is not really quiet: it’s full of tiny distractions and interruptions from these little ones. Nap times are quite short and to-do lists are quite long. My days seem to go by in the blink of an eye, and I’m often left exhausted, only getting the chance to pray “Help me, Lord” in between homeschooling, my writing deadlines, continuous snack requests, laundry loads and diaper “loads.” Knowing very well that this season in life won’t last forever, I have learned to cast my cares upon the Lord and soak up the few moments that I can in the Word of God because it is what I need to readjust my focus when I’m tempted to complain. 

The other day, a passage in Mark 9 met this momma right among the blissful chaos with encouragement:

And He [Jesus] sat down and called the Twelve [disciples], and He said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he must be last of all, and servant of all.” 36 And He took a little child and put him in the center of their group; and taking him in [His] arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever in My name and for My sake accepts and receives and welcomes one such child also accepts and receives and welcomes Me; and whoever so receives Me receives not only Me but Him Who sent Me” (35-37, AMP).

By putting my sons and my role as a mom and wife above my desires and my life’s goals, I have been serving Jesus this whole time! And if serving Jesus, worshiping Jesus!

And if that wasn’t uplifting enough, Jesus calls out our service to children specifically in verses 36-37. When we welcome our children into our lives and make them feel loved and accepted every day, we are also welcoming them in the name of the Lord Jesus every day. Jesus compares being the servant of all, a high position in the Kingdom of God, to those who welcome children into their lives. What an honor!

So to all my tired and overwhelmed mommas out there, take heart! Every time you embrace your child and serve your family, you are embracing Jesus and even more so, your Heavenly Father who is not going to leave you to raise your children alone!

Father, we welcome you into our blissful chaos as we raise up our children to trust in You and receive Your love into their lives so that they may point others to You and Your Kingdom. We are thankful that you give us the privilege of embracing little ones every day. Give us eyes to see opportunities to share the Gospel with our children in everyday moments. We ask for your grace and strength when we are feeling overwhelmed and weary. Help us to serve You with all that we are and in everything we do…laundry loads and all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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A Prayer for Grieving Mothers

October is Pregnancy/Infant Loss Awareness month and although it has been almost eight years since my husband and I experienced the loss of the first child in my womb, my heart has been stirred to mourn with those who have walked through and are walking through the pain of losing a little one…no mattered the age. 

Last year I gave birth to our third child and I recall when I was being admitted to the hospital, the nurse was asking me a variety of routine questions, one of which was “How many pregnancies have you had?” 

When I answered off the cuff, “This is my fourth…my first one was a miscarriage,” she turned around from her computer, looked at me with the most compassionate eyes and said, “Oh, I am so sorry for your loss.” Her response moved me, and I realized that time in my life mattered then and it still matters today.

So much time has passed, and life continues on that I don’t think about it much, but I believe it is important to remember that was my first child. 

I don’t know why women don’t speak about loss or miscarriage much or why we may feel like we don’t have to mention it, but that kind response from my L&D nurse really made me reflect and remember and want to talk about it and share that time in my life. 

I believe it is important to remind your heart that the life that was inside of you greatly mattered to God, and for whatever reason that we do not have to know, He needed them in heaven with Him instead of on earth. We must trust His sovereign plan is for our good and for His glory, even when it hurts so deeply. It has been said that grief comes in waves and you need to give yourself permission to experience each wave as it comes as you walk through the process. Yet, we must remember that when it comes to grief, as believers, we stand apart from those without Christ. 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 encourages those who may have experienced the temporal sting of death to fix our gaze upon the life that is to come. As believers, we have a hope in Jesus that a resurrection of our bodies awaits us for eternity. 

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (NIV).

I remind my heart of this great hope that one day, I will meet that precious babe that the Lord knit in my womb. So I pray for each woman who has experienced the kind of painful loss of a child for the Lord to not only bring them healing and peace if the wound is fresh on their heart, but to encourage them to not be afraid to tell others about all their babies…both earth-side and in heaven. 

Father, we pray for all the mothers who have felt the deep pain of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss of their precious babes that were formed in their wombs all for Your glory. No matter how long their tiny hearts were beating, Your plan for their precious lives had meaning and purpose. Letting go and trusting You during these times of mourning and great questions can be difficult, so we ask that you strengthen and renew their faith that You will carry them through this trial. As the waves of grief come crashing in on them, remind their heart of the hope that they have in Christ. Holy Spirit, help these grieving mothers to fix their gaze upon heaven where the promise of eternal life awaits them. Give them a voice to share their story of Your goodness and faithfulness during this difficult time. Thank You for bringing a peace that passes all understanding and healing broken hearts in Your timing. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Crying Out for God’s Strength

In my current season of life with raising little ones, I am running on empty. My flesh feels so limited most days. I often use the phrase “swimming through mud” when I am trying to accomplish my tasks for the day and met with resistance, distractions, and interruptions. I find my frequent prayer to be “Help me, Jesus.” 

In a culture (yes, even within the visible church) where positive affirmations and self-empowered declarations are the norm, admitting your weakness, limitedness, and failures is seen as negative and perhaps even harmful to your soul. You can purchase T-shirts and find graphics all over the internet that proclaim: “You are enough.” 

Yet, the Bible reveals that we are not enough in an of ourselves or in our own abilities; we are but dust (Psalm 103:14-16). The Lord is the one who gives us the breath and talents to accomplish anything. Admitting our “not enough-ness” provides an opportunity to look to God because He is in fact more than enough and His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12). Ultimately, the Lord is glorified in my weakness and in my feeling of emptiness and “not enough-ness.” 

The Psalmist Asaph boldly admits his frail humanity in Psalm 73:

“My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

26, NASB

When I am emptied of myself and my grit and pride when I think I can ‘slay all day’ and spin all the plates without them crashing to the floor, it is then that I can be filled with His strength and grace to walk out my calling as a wife, mother, writer, teacher, and homemaker.

When empowerment culture shouts “You cannot pour from an empty cup!” I remind my heart that I can pour from an empty cup, for the Lord is my portion! It’s when my “cup” is empty that I can be filled up with God’s strength.  And that’s the best place for me to be. When I cannot rely on myself at all, I can rely on Him and lean upon the Lord, my Rock. This also means we must take time to be filled up with Him by staying in His Word. If we are looking for “self-care” to be “filled up,” the best care for our soul is to set aside a part of our day to commune with the Lord. God uses “empty cups” to reveal that He is enough!

Father, 

I am feeling so exhausted, stressed, and empty…like I have nothing left to give. But I trust that is exactly where You want me to be so that I can rely on You alone. You give me the strength and grace to continue to pour because Your grace and mercy is fresh for me every day. Instead of trying to muster up the strength in myself, I lift my eyes to You and call out to You for help. When I am feeling weary, I run to You. Help me find moments throughout my day to spend time with You as You continue to teach me that You are enough for me. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Protecting Your Heart Against Complaining

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” -1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18, NASB.

A friend of mine shared a graphic on social media the other day that stopped me in my tracks and convicted my weary heart. It was a brief but powerful list of reasons to be thankful when we are tempted to complain. It said:

Early wakeups = Children to be loved

House to clean = safe place to live

Laundry = clothes to wear

Dishes to wash = food to eat

Endless questions = kids’ brains growing

If I am honest, I have not rejoiced in these blessings at all. I have complained, and often. So much so, I caught my six-year-old repeating phrases I had been saying as I grumbled with bitterness throughout my day.

Right after I saw that post on social media, the Holy Spirit brought the scripture to my mind that our pastor had just preached on Sunday earlier in the week; it was from 1 Thessalonians 5.

The Apostle Paul exhorts the believers at Thessalonica with these commands:

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing;in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18, NASB).

I knew that the Bible talks consistently about the sin of complaining, but I did not realize how important it is for a believer to make joyful thanksgiving every moment of every day. In fact, it is God’s will for us to do this because we are in Christ and in Christ, we have much to be grateful for!

Knowing that our flesh would so much rather complain, grumble, stress out, and look at everything that is wrong, there is no doubt as to why the Apostle Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. We must lift up our hearts to the Lord for help if we are to walk in thanksgiving when the pressures of this life crowd in around us and try to weigh us down. We need His grace to rejoice. We need His strength to face each day, especially when our current season of life is stressful and physically and mentally exhausting.

Lately, I have been physically and emotionally drained. Stress has been so high for me that I was beginning to grow resentful. I truly needed a shift in my perspective because it was affecting my heart in major ways.

In addition to being thankful for my growing children, the safety and comfort of my home, clothes on my back, and food in my belly, as a believer, most of all, I needed God’s help to remind my soul of the eternal blessings that I have in Christ.

In Christ, I have access to the Father to come to Him in prayer because I am His child. In Christ, I have hope for eternal life. In Christ, I have peace knowing that my sins have been forgiven and I am justified before a Holy God. When I am tempted to complain about the stress and inconveniences of life, I must look to Jesus and ask Him to remind my heart of all of these blessings that are lavished upon me that I truly do not deserve, both earthly and eternal. It is God’s will for us to rejoice and be thankful, so may God’s will be done in my heart.

Father,

I am weary and worn out from the cares of this life. My heart is heavy and stressed and my body is feeling the effects of it all that seems to be weighing me down. My heart has become bitter and ungrateful; I have taken many blessings in my life for granted. Father, I repent of my complaining and grumbling. I know that I do not deserve anything that You have lavished upon me. You do not owe me a thing, yet you are such a great Father and provide for my needs and grant me Your unmerited favor and mercy each new day.

In addition to my physical needs being met, you have given me eternal life in Jesus Christ and peace knowing my sins have been forgiven because of what Jesus did for me on the cross when He laid down His life for me.

I come to You to help me rejoice and ask You to fill my heart with thanksgiving. Please remind my heart to begin each day with a grateful heart and know that I can pray anytime I am struggling with bitterness or I am tempted to grow resentful for all that You have freely given to me. Help me guard my heart against anything that may cause it to grow hard and bitter.

Thank You, Jesus, for Your sacrifice and for the life that I find in You alone.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Special Delivery: God’s Providential Hand in the Birth of My Third Son

For me, one of the hardest things during pregnancy is not so much the morning sickness (although that is pretty rough). It’s not the weight gain, back aches, swollen ankles, insomnia, constant potty breaks in the middle of the night, or not being able to bend over to pick anything up without making weird noises. Although all of those things can make life a struggle, especially when you are chasing around two other littles, the most difficult part for me is the last few weeks of pregnancy…

…waiting…

…and waiting…

…and not knowing when the day is going to be.

It takes a level of trusting God and leaning into His sovereignty like no other major life event. He is God. We are not. He is in control of all things. And we are not. 

And birth is one of the greatest reminders of that…if you are allowed to let your body naturally call the shots and don’t have any kind of medical interventions, of course, and that was my goal this pregnancy just like my previous one with my son, James.

My hospital experience with Isaiah, my first born, was a bit traumatic- my water unexpectedly broke at 37.6 weeks at 1am, contractions stalled and no amount of walking was helping jumpstart labor, so the doctor approached us with the concern that the longer we waited, we risked infection for the baby, so Paul and I prayed and decided to take the doctor’s advice and be put on Pitocin to help my body along. 

I will just say this: 12 HOURS ON PITOCIN AND NO EPIDURAL was NOT my idea of a natural childbirth, but God gave me the grace and strength to endure those 25 hours from the time my water broke to the time I was holding the baby boy who made me a momma. 

God has an amazing way of taking a painful experience and making something beautiful out of it, and because of the chain of events that happened the day Isaiah was born, the Lord brought restoration to an area of my life that was broken. You can read more about that here.

Although difficult, I was thankful for a healthy baby and a safe labor and delivery at a hospital, but from that moment on, I knew I wanted my next labor and delivery to be quite different, so I chose to deliver our next son, James, at a birth center under the amazing care of midwives instead of an OB. 

To be completely honest, Jesus brought so much redemption and healing with that experience, and I just remember being so filled with joy after I looked at my amazing teammate of a husband in the eyes who was literally my anchor during it all and scooped up my sweet prince into my arms. My water broke to initiate labor this time too, but there was no delay in stopping that boy from being born; In typical James’ fashion, he came into the world like a rocket in just under two hours after arriving at the birth center…as their 1,000th birth since they opened as a facility. You can read more about that birth story here.

When we found out we were pregnant with our third in January 2020 (after only trying once…God is good!), I didn’t hesitate to decide where our next baby would be born. I called the birth center and set up my first appointment where the boys were able to hear the baby’s heartbeat, and since the birth center had added some new ultrasound equipment since James was born, we were also able to catch a glimpse of the little peanut growing in my belly. Everything looked and sounded great! What a precious memory for me to experience with my two oldest before the whole world shut down just a few weeks later. 

Providence.

That is the word that comes to mind when I reflect on my entire experience with our third son, baby Jude, as you will see.

Just a few weeks after my initial prenatal appointment, I received a letter in the mail from our insurance company- the birth center was no longer contracted with United Health Care. 

My heart sank and tears began to well up in my eyes. I don’t want another hospital birth! I cried to Paul. Especially during a global pandemic! I searched and searched the internet to find another option.

What about the birth center at Mercy Hospital? I thought. Two of the midwives at the birth center worked there! This would be great! 

Sadly, it was out-of-network with our insurance.

What about a homebirth? Yes, that settles it. I am having a homebirth.

If you know my husband, Paul, you know how that was out of the question. He works with data in the medical community for a living and calculates risk for fun. You will never find us on vacation on a cruise. “It’s a death trap! Like being in a giant steel coffin in the middle of the ocean…no thank you!”

But on a serious note, looking back, I see how God had a specific plan for this pregnancy and how He ordained every step of the way even at 14 weeks along. I was able to find a family physician that I had been wanting to see as my own primary care doctor when I was postpartum with James, but she was only accepting patients who were currently pregnant, as she also delivered babies. This doctor was a major contributor of advocating for more natural childbirth at Mercy Hospital and helped their birth center get off the ground before she opened her own practice. She also trained as a midwife’s assistant before beginning medical school. AND her practice was in-network with our insurance! And not only would I get to see her during my pregnancy and postpartum, I would finally have a primary care physician for the first time since I was in college! 

Providence.

My pregnancy was a rather smooth one once we made it out of the dreaded first trimester nausea and fatigue, and I truly enjoyed getting to form a relationship with my new doctor, but every so often, I would get frustrated that I had to go the hospital route, especially as COVID restrictions kept changing. 

As we approached my “guess date” of September 19th, I began to have a similar prodromal labor experience as I did with James. Contractions began to form patterns and they would intensify. I never knew if “this was it” or if the contractions would simply keep me awake through the night only to fizzle out. This in and of itself is pretty exhausting and stressful, especially when others’ schedules are impacted by your personal judgment and being terrified that you would run out of time and give birth in the car on the way to the hospital. 

The week leading up to Jude’s birth was extremely stressful and emotional for Paul and I as our childcare plans continued to fall through and change last minute in addition to having one false alarm that resulted in a hospital trip mid-day to get “checked.” My doctor wanted me to do laps in the hallways to see if things would progress, and because of COVID policies, I had to wear a mask at all times and walk alone without Paul only to find out that I hadn’t progressed at all. Let’s just say I was so over it, that it was hard to hold back the tears by that point. 

Contractions continued to come (and go) at various times in the day and night and finally, the day after my “guess date,” my water broke just like my other two pregnancies….hat trick! 😉 It happened around 7:30pm as I was climbing into the van to go grab Paul some White Castles. We will remember that story for a long time! 

Since it was a Sunday night, Paul’s parents were able to come to the house to stay with the boys with no issues at all and on top of that, my mother-in-law Becky was off work the next day. Something I was so worked up and anxious about, ended up working out with ease.

Providence.

I had been listening to sermons that entire week about not being anxious or worried because my Heavenly Father knows what I need and will provide. I simply just needed to trust Him. I’m so glad I prepared my heart with those teachings because I had no idea how much I would need to trust the Lord as I prepared to give birth to our sweet, baby Jude.

As we were admitted into the hospital, we were blessed with an incredibly kind and gentle L&D nurse who helped us remain peaceful; We were almost certain she was a believer. Suddenly as I got up to go to the restroom while contractions were still pretty mild, the nurse notice a unique coloration that indicated that the baby passed meconium in the womb. She calmly informed us that NICU staff had been notified in advance so that they were ready at the time of his birth just in case they were needed for an emergency situation. 

Contractions continued to get stronger and I settled into position (which I discovered with James’ birth) where I get “in the zone.” Paul was an amazing support by my side, holding my hand and encouraging me through each wave of contraction. My awesome doctor arrived just as I began to make vocalizations to handle the pain and she was also encouraging me through the contractions and giving me sips of water. That is usually unheard of when it comes to OBs who mostly just show up at the very last minute to catch the baby.

Providence.

My doctor was only in the room for less than hour by the time I felt the urge to push. I switched to an upright position on my knees with my arms around Paul to bear down as I began to push, which seemed so much more difficult than I remember with James. I heard the doctor tell me that the head was out, but then I kept wondering why it wasn’t over yet. 

What I didn’t know was that Jude’s shoulders were stuck in the birth canal. 

Suddenly, a swarm of nurses were around me as they turned me onto my back, and everyone did all they could to help Jude out. It was a slow night, so there was plenty of staff to come to the rescue.

Providence.

Finally, there he was, but instead of instant skin to skin like I was promised, they rushed him to the table across the room where Paul met them. The NICU staff worked extremely fast and precise to intubate him to clear his airways because he did in fact swallow meconium and wasn’t breathing. As I was waiting to hear his precious little cry, I just kept praying “Please, Father” over and over again as the nurses by my side were telling me to calm my breathing. Finally, Jude cried, and I threw my hands up in worship and kept saying “Thank you, Jesus.” 

One of the reasons, his birth was so difficult was because he was very unexpectedly two pounds heavier than Isaiah and James. Jude Samuel born at 1:39 am on 9/21/2020, and weighed in at 9.6 lbs- my doctor was absolutely shocked that baby fit inside my little belly. Most often, babies that big result in a C-section, but by the grace of God, Jude entered the world naturally and because of God’s grace and mercy and the amazing staff at Missouri Baptist Hospital, he is alive and healthy.  

Once the doctors and nurses were able to stabilize his oxygen levels enough before they took him to the NICU for him to receive the care and observation he needed, the nurses swaddled him up in a blanket and put a hat on him for a quick family photo op. I was still trying to grasp what had just happened that I could barely smile. As I look at the photo now, I see that Paul’s eyes were welled up with tears and Jude’s gaze was locked on his momma.

A couple days after we came home from the hospital, Paul needed to process what he experienced in the whirlwind of events of Jude’s birth, and he shared with me that Jude was in fact limp and lifeless for what seemed like an eternity. I know it was a scary several minutes for me not knowing what was happening, but the reality of this news that Paul shared with me hit me like a ton of bricks. So instead of thinking about how awkward I look in this first photo with our third precious son, I will forever remember how I had no idea what God had just done, but I praised His name, knowing that He was faithful to hear my cries and saved my son. 

I cannot truly put into words the gratitude that my heart has felt these last two weeks as I continue to process those extremely intense moments leading up to Jude’s birth and the moments of seeing my little man with all the tubes and wires on his tiny body when I nursed him for the first time in the NICU (of which his stay was brief at only five hours total). Truly, the Lord was so incredibly merciful to us that day. What the enemy meant for evil, God turned it for good, and our sweet Jude’s life was spared all for God’s glory.

I can’t help but see God’s providential hand from the beginning of my pregnancy with the birth center dropping our insurance so that I had to give birth at a hospital instead, to the very end with my water breaking to initiate labor to see that there was meconium in the fluid so that the NICU was ready and on-hand just in case.

Nothing with God is coincidence or happenstance; He is sovereign and in control of every detail in our life, guiding our every step. His work in our lives is providential through and through, and He causes all things to work out for our good and for His glory.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28, NASB

After this life-changing experience, this verse is having a profound impact upon my heart as I continue to reflect on the goodness and faithfulness of God.

We serve a mighty God who is completely sovereign over all things in our lives. Because of that, He can be trusted.

Thank you, Lord, for our newest arrow, Jude Samuel, who will one day be sent out into the world to tell others of Your great love and share the Gospel wherever You send him. May we raise Him to testify of Your goodness and give You the glory You deserve, all the days of his life. 

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Dying to Live

I sent this pic to Paul on Tuesday after a four hour non-stop cluster feeding session with our newest son, Jude, (#boymom ?) who officially entered our Father’s world on September 21st, 2020. Because of some issues at birth (which I will share at a later date when I am able to sit down and write the birth story), we had to unexpectedly stay an extra night in the hospital. So Paul headed home to be with our older two boys and relieve my mom who needed to be at work the next day. I am so thankful to have had the care received at a hospital this time around (my last delivery with my middle son was at a birth center and it was supposed to be for this pregnancy/delivery too, but they dropped my insurance when I was around 12 weeks pregnant…but nothing is coincidence with God) for a number of reasons I will share later, but I am happy we are finally now home. My heart is full. 

Yet, at the same time, these last several days have been filled with much struggle and difficulty, and I find myself having a lot of flashbacks of my experience as a first-time mom almost exactly six years ago

This is the second time we have brought a new life into the world at the turn of Fall…Paul and I’s favorite season. It’s when we began dating so it holds a very special place in our heart. But with the turn of this particular season, I also have memories of some dark and heavy times in my life as well.

It is rather mind-blowing to me that not only were Isaiah (our oldest) and Jude born around the same time of year (just about 2.5 weeks a part), they have strikingly similar facial features, and what is even more obvious to me is their similar temperament. 

To be completely honest, Isaiah was not an easy baby. Frankly, he was not a very happy baby. I felt like I was failing as a mom because he was constantly upset and uncomfortable. I had trouble soothing him with things that normally worked and when he got upset…he got REALLY upset. Once he cried so hard in the car that he popped blood vessels in his eyes. He also barely slept either during the day or at night…unless I was holding him. (His struggle with sleep actually lasted until he was about 2.5 years old and on and off for another year after that).

It didn’t take long for me to realize that because of a traumatic birth experience, severe sleep deprivation, and my history of struggle with anxiety and depression, I was not handling any of it very well.

But because of my severe lack of understanding of the sovereignty of God and horrendous Word of Faith beliefs, I never told a soul, not even admit it to myself that I was struggling. You just don’t do that because once you say it, it becomes reality (**Cough** Law of Attraction **Cough**Cough*). There’s power in your words…power to speak life and death, I was taught. This, of course, is taking Proverbs 18:21 out of context (and not even quoting the whole verse) to mean we can create every outcome in life with our words.

Friends, that is not what that verse means, but that’s another topic for another time. 

And how could I forget to stand upon my “life verse” in times of struggle… “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Taking Philippians 4:13 out of context to mean that I am unstoppable…a super human if you will… because “I am a Christian! I am a child of God…I am more than a conqueror in Christ! I am to walk victoriously in all areas of my life! I am blessed and highly favored! When Jesus died of the cross, He took away ALL sin, sickness, and disease! I am healed and whole. Nothing missing, nothing broken. Anxiety and depression are just attacks from Satan and he has no authority in my life…I bind this anxiety and depression in the name of Jesus! I am not weak!” 

But the thing is… I am weak!

I know to admit that now probably more than ever because of these last (almost) six years of motherhood.

This particular passage of scripture in 2 Corinthians has carried me through so many dark nights of the soul, and I find myself clinging to its truth in my current season:

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NASB

Not only have I learned to admit my weaknesses so that I can boast in the strength and grace of Christ, I have learned a whole new level of dying to self as I lean into the high (demanding) calling of motherhood. 

This morning as baby Jude stirred for a feeding and my body feeling the ache of the aftermath of my third natural childbirth and only 2.5 hours of sleep as I write this, I read these comforting and timely words in an email from Well-Watered Women:

“When the mornings begin to cool and the leaves start to change, so does my heart. The heat of summer is passing, and any sign of a chill in the air causes my heart to soar and my tummy to crave a nice cup of coffee. The changing of the season brings new life to my soul and my home—but at the same time, it ushers in death.

Once-green leaves begin to turn colorful hues before falling to the ground and losing all signs of life. The leaves that previously shaded us from the sun become a crumpled heap we step on. This necessary death brings about new life in the world as well as in our souls.

Death brings new life for believers as well. Death to self brings life in the Spirit (Romans 8:9–11). Death to sin brings life in Christ (Romans 6:6–8). Jesus offers us the invitation to die to ourselves in order to embrace true life in him (Luke 9:23). This year, let the changing of the seasons be a physical reminder of the importance and beauty of death in the Christian life. Death is not the end for the follower of Jesus; it’s the segway to new life in him.

May we die to live. May we lose to gain him—and him alone—as we remember that in the changing of the seasons, he never changes. His truths never fail and they never grow stale. They never falter or become less vital. Rather, his Word sustains us when every leaf falls and the cold of winter comes. His grace gives us hope and enjoyment in every season.”  

Gretchen Saffles

What a powerful reminder of who our God is…never changing even when the seasons change!

So I will end with this…

As we enter this Fall season, and I enter a new season of motherhood that brings me to my knees in the middle of the night and causes me to die to myself a little more each day, I fix my eyes on Jesus and boast of my weakness and my great need for the Lord. 

Jesus’ grace is sufficient today and in every season. 

“This year, let the changing of the seasons be a physical reminder of the importance and beauty of death in the Christian life. Death is not the end for the follower of Jesus; it’s the segway to new life in Him. May we die to live.”

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