Diligently Asking for God’s Sustaining Grace

When we are taking strides to walk in obedience to God, the resistance to push forward gets stronger, and it feels like we are treading through mud just to take a step. My husband, Paul, and I have been experiencing this since starting to lead a new ministry at our church, in addition to juggling all the rest of our responsibilities caring for our boys and our own individual lives.  

Even though it’s exhausting and sometimes discouraging when things feel so chaotic and stressful, I must remind my heart that our God is stronger and will use whatever seems to be standing against us (especially our own sinful flesh!) to grow and deepen our faith and sanctify us. But this doesn’t mean it isn’t painful or that I am quick to learn how to depend on Him!

For me, personally, I am working on resting in the new mercies of today and being quick to repent and ask for forgiveness. I feel like I have failed a lot in my behavior towards Paul and my boys these last few weeks. I don’t want to blame it on hormones and lack of sleep (although I know this adds fuel to the fire so to speak). Because God’s grace is available to me. But am I asking for it diligently? Probably not as much as I should.

If His grace is truly sufficient (and it is), do I live like I’m dependent upon it daily and praying without ceasing throughout my day? The book of James is a wonderful book of instructions for believers. In chapter 4, we discover that we must protect our hearts from worldly thinking. Often when we are trying to take control of our life and not rest in God’s grace and provision daily, we resort to either neglecting God’s ever-presenting help or asking God with wrong motives:

“…You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2b-3, ESV). 


James 4 merely tells us that, if there is something we want, we need to ask God for it, instead of resorting to sinful means. It stands to reason that there are some things that we will not get unless we ask for them, but, if we ask, we will receive them. So, if there is something that we want, we need to ask. Christians should be praying and asking God, especially for His supernatural grace.

Instead of trying to control what feels so uncontrollable in our lives and allowing our circumstances to dictate our mood or behavior, let us boldly come to the throne of grace and ask our Father for His unwavering and sustaining grace. He is faithful to provide.

Father God,

I know that Your grace is sufficient and that You are my ever-present help in time of need, but sometimes my actions do not reflect these truths. It’s much easier for me to either complain about my stressful and difficult circumstances or try to take matters into my own hands to try to fix or change what seems to be causing me to feel so overwhelmed. But I know that I need to come to You and ask for grace when I have reached my limit. You are faithful to provide all things that I need because You are a gracious Father who cares deeply for Your children. I come to You as Your child today, boldly and humbling asking for Your sustaining and powerful grace carry me through each challenging moment. You are faithful in every season, and I thank You for reminding me to come to You first and foremost and pray without ceasing. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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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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Taming the Tongue

In college, although I was a professing Christian, out of curiosity to learn more about my own spirituality, I began to study things that I now know were a part of New Age teaching. Some of the books that I was reading did mention God and even quoted the Bible, so I believed this new information on how to live out my faith to see progress and success in my life would strengthen my Christianity. One of the major teachings, called The Law of Attraction, centered around my thought-life; making sure to focus on positive things versus negative things. These positive thoughts would act like a magnet to draw to myself positive outcomes and results regarding my dreams, aspirations, and even material possessions that I desired. 

A step further would be to speak out loud positive declarations and affirmations about myself and what I would like to see happen to shape my future for the better. After I graduated college, when I met my husband at the church he grew up at, there was a lot of emphasis on this very same teaching (although they never called it The Law of Attraction) as well as being very cautious on what words you spoke. We were told that we needed to pay attention to our tongue- our words needed to be “in faith” and “in line with God’s Word.” 

We now know that these teachings are rooted in what is called the ‘Word of Faith’ movement, which was influenced by a metaphysical movement called ‘New Thought.’ Thus, Word of Faith doctrine essentially embraces New Age’s Law of Attraction and is contrary to sound, Christian doctrine. Sadly, scriptures on the tongue were taken out of context to promote the idea that you can attract what you say and declare. God alone, not man, is the One who calls things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17). The Bible does have much to say about the power of our words, but it has a lot more to do with reflecting Christ in our speech, words filled with the fruit of the Spirit, than attracting things or situations to you or “manifesting” the things you are declaring “in Jesus’ name.” Let us be wise to know the difference and understand these verses in their proper context.

James 1:26 offers us a sobering statement about our speech:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

(James 1:26, ESV)

A religion is simply a particular system of faith and worship. If you are a believer in Christ, your religion is Christianity. James equates your profession of faith in Christ to how you choose to use your tongue. Our words point to what we truly believe and live by.  

Are your words pointing others to God and His truth, always giving Him glory, or do your words always seem to point to yourself and the things and systems of this world? Do you control your tongue, or do you let your mouth rule you or cause you to puff yourself up in pride or get you into trouble with others? Our speech should reflect Christ and be seasoned with grace, humility, and love. If we confess our faith in Christ, there should be evidence of our changed speech as well as our changed life and behavior. When people meet us, they should hear and see something different than the rest of the world who does not follow the Lord.

Even in disagreements, we should continue to speak with a heart of love for others and not use profanity or offensive remarks that would hurt or cause pain. We should also be careful to not grumble or complain, but to use our tongue to proclaim our thankfulness unto the Lord. Taming the tongue is something we must grow in each day as the Lord sanctifies us. The good news is that we are never left on our own to walk in that type of self-control regarding our words. It is not something we can do apart from the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. The temptation to use our tongue for our own benefit and reputation is strong but let us be quick to ask the Lord for His help daily as we continue to grow in the likeness of Him, especially in our speech.

Father, without realizing it, I may have embraced a very self-centered and self-gratifying teaching on the importance of how we speak. I repent for using my tongue to puff myself up above others or hurting others with painful words that cut deep to the heart. I need Your help to control my tongue in times of strife or disagreement with others. I want my words to glorify You and share Your truth and gospel. I pray that my actions would also reflect my speech. I long for my walk with You to match my profession of faith. I do not want be self-deceived; I do not want my Christianity to be called “worthless” in Your eyes. Thank You for continually working in me and through me, so that I may look more and more like Jesus in word and deed. 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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Our Life Starts with Death

Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I worked in a small medical office for four and a half years. That job was difficult for me because I came into contact with a lot of hurting people. And as we all know, “hurt people hurt people.” There were many days that I would drive home crying and collapse on my bed because of the exhausting day of what felt like being a human punching bag.

I constantly asked the Lord to get me out of there, but He had other plans for me. I longed for the day when I would be used in ministry, but what God was trying to get me to understand was that my ministry was right in front of me!

Every single patient who walked into our office was an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with. Once my eyes were opened to that truth, my experience in that office changed and the Lord, in turn, changed me. I would pray every single morning that God would bring someone across my path who I could pray for or share truth with. And guess what? God always provided! I was given countless opportunities to pray for people and share truth with. If I would have stayed in my selfishness, wanting to escape the uncomfortable, I would have missed out on real life- that only comes from denying ourselves and following Christ’s ways over our own. 

It is human nature to seek after what our hearts and flesh crave, but we do not have to give into that kind of nature for we have a new nature in Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:10, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:24). Jesus told his disciples a better way to live if we truly want to be a Christ follower:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 16: 24-25, ESV

Jesus died to bring us life, our life starts with our death. In dying to self, we feel pain and joy, as the light of God shows up in other peoples’ lives, so that He would receive Glory. His Resurrection life leads to our resurrection life and power; our resurrection life and power is an ongoing commitment to death to self. Although we have been given this command from our Lord, He does not leave us to our own strength to follow through. The Holy Spirit empowers us to set aside our selfishness and learn how to surrender our desires and be selfless like Jesus, preferring others above ourselves. We are then empowered to fully surrender and die to self. This lifestyle of surrendering our love for self helps us bear much fruit, and we will see others come to Christ as well.  How have your freedoms/prosperity made you comfortable? Have your freedoms and prosperity in life made you a comfort-seeking consumer? Is it a joy for you to die daily and come after Jesus? If this is a struggle for you, let us go boldly to the throne of grace and ask Him for help to surrender to dying to self and following Christ where true life is found. 

Father God, I repent for trying to hold onto my life when you have asked your followers to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow you. I surrender my love of self and lean on Your grace to walk in Your ways, preferring others more than myself. I set aside my desire to be comfortable and avoid pain, and trust that you have joy for me in a life of selflessness and service. Help me have boldness to tell others about You and share Your love and truth with whoever comes my way. Thank You for laying Your life down for me to find true life eternal. 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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Asking the Holy Spirit to Teach Us

In high school, I was gifted a Bible when I became a member of my new church. I was so excited to start reading it and learn more about God, but as time went on, I became more and more intimated by its pages. Where do I begin? Do I start in Genesis and just read through it beginning to end? Do I need to spend time memorizing what I’m reading? What does this word mean?

These thoughts circled my teenage mind, and I was so hesitant to even dive in for fear that I wouldn’t understand what I was reading. It didn’t take long for schoolwork and all of the extracurricular activities I was involved in to crowd out any down time to make space to read my Bible. Soon enough, that Bible would find a permanent home on my bookshelf, left untouched. I hate to admit it, but the intimidation and distractions would follow me all through college as well. When I was stressed out, I would glance at my neglected Bible and randomly open it and try to soak up some hope for my weary soul.

Although I heard the gospel as a teen, and was a professing Christian for six years, it wasn’t until after I graduated college that God granted me genuine repentance from my sin and rebellion and gave me the faith to fully surrender my life to Christ and trust Him completely. One Sunday, I stepped foot in a church service for the first time in a few years, and I believe I was born again that day, as the reality of offending a Holy God and my desperate need to turn to Jesus, take up my cross, and follow Him overwhelmed me for the first time in my life. After that moment, my whole world changed, and I suddenly had a deep desire to read my Bible and obey God. I look back and see the difference between my high school and college days was that I was trying to understand what I was reading without the help of the Holy Spirit. Once I became born again at the age of twenty-two, I was given the gift of the Holy Spirit- Jesus describes Him as a Comforter as well as a Helper and Teacher in John 14:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26, ESV).

As born-again believers, when we open the pages of scripture, we are not left on our own to understand what we are reading. We have a Helper and a great Teacher, the Holy Spirit, to guide us in our pursuit of growing in the knowledge of the Lord. He illuminates the truth to us over time and will bring what we have read to our remembrance. This is why it is so important to consistently be reading our Bibles, so that we can store what we are studying in our hearts. The Bible is a gift from God to help us in our daily lives- to be able to learn of God’s ways and learn who God truly is so that we can grow closer to Him and worship Him rightly. 

I have to admit that I sometimes still struggle with intimidation and distraction when it comes to reading my Bible, but after walking with the Lord for over ten years now, I know that I am not left alone on this journey. I have a Helper who guides me into all truth and supernaturally helps me understand the words I am reading- words that are spirit and life (John 6:63). He is always with me and I can always ask Him for help.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Not only does He convict me of my sin when I daily fall short, He is my ever-present Help in time of need who also guides me into all truth. I admit that I need help understanding your Holy written Word. Holy Spirit, will you give me a hunger to daily read the Bible? May You supernaturally illuminate what I am reading and give me the ability to comprehend what I am studying, not just for head knowledge, but to help me know You in a deeper way so that I give You the worship You deserve. 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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