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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Beauty in Its Time

I have lived in the Midwest of the United States my entire life. We experience all four seasons, but it usually goes something like this: 5-6 months of Winter, 2-3 weeks of Spring, 4-5 months of Summer, and 2-4 weeks of Fall. By the time the extreme months of Winter and Summer are over, we get to enjoy the mild temperatures for less than a month most years. 

I have to admit, Winter is my least favorite season and out of all the seasons, and in the Midwest, it is the longest. I wait for Spring to come with great expectation, but come January, I am usually growing extremely impatient and ready to pack my bags and move our family to somewhere much warmer!

But, just like the year before, the temperature begins to slowly climb, buds begin to form on the trees, and the grass and plants begin to come back to life and show those vibrant green colors. Soon enough, fresh leaves are fully covering what were barren branches and flowers are in full bloom, welcoming us into Spring once again. I never have to worry if the seasons are going to change because they always do; God is a master artist like that and has it all under control. 

Just like seasons are set to a specific time that God ordains, so are events in our life, and on an even bigger scale, our journey with Him as it unfolds. Only He knows how to take a rebellious heart of stone and transform it into a heart of flesh that praises His Holy name. This profound reality of God forming a life into one who learns how to deny self and worship the Lord is not an overnight event. No, just like seasons change in their own time, the change of a life for the glory of Christ is a process. In God’s perfecting timing, we will begin to see the transformation. 

Ecclesiastes is a book in the Bible written by one of the wisest men to live, King Solomon. In this book, Solomon discusses the ebb and flow of life: time, foolishness, suffering, and wisdom are some of the topics that are poetically unwrapped throughout this Old Testament book. 

Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes focuses on the concept of time in the heart of man. Verse 11 explains to us that God is the holder of time and specifically that “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (11a). The verse goes on to say that God “has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 11b, NIV). 

Often times, as humans, we become extremely discouraged when we fail or when we think we should be further along than we are, but God is continually working in our hearts and in our lives, and the process of conforming us to the image of His dear Son rests solely in His hands as we lean not on our own understanding, but trust completely in Him and His ways (Proverbs 3:5-6).

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we learn to walk in obedience. He leads us into all truth as we study the Word and renew our mind to replace old ways of thinking with God’s perfect will. 

Perhaps this process of renewing our mind and seeing transformation in behavior and attitude is slowed down because our eyes become too fixated on cares of this life and the temporal.

Our hearts were made to look to the hope in eternity, but if we are not careful, we can be consumed with worry when things are not changing as quickly as we would like them to or when our circumstances in our life are challenging or uncomfortable.

Soon we are trying to control things that go on in our life and forget to ask the Lord for His help or even acknowledge that He may be using all that may be difficult in our life to work for our good and turn it all into something beautiful. 

Do you feel like you are stuck in a “winter” season in your life and are longing to see blooms of new life?

Take those concerns to the Lord today in prayer. Write down the worries that are weighing you down and surrender them to God.

dOnly He is able to make things beautiful in its time. Don’t lose hope…Springtime is just around the corner!

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