For many people, the holidays are full of wonderful traditions and precious memories together with family and friends. For others, it’s a time of deep pain and loneliness as they are reminded of strained or non-existent relationships or the loss of loved ones and their absence from the holiday gatherings.
For many years, the latter was my experience, especially when I became a believer in my early 20s. I lost my dad around Thanksgiving when I was 22, and a few years later, my mom and stepdad went through a very painful divorce, which strained my relationship with my mother based on her life choices shortly following the separation from my stepdad. In the early years of my own marriage, there was so much tension and passive aggressive exchanges during the holidays as it was expected that I must make it top priority to spend time with my side of the family instead of my now husband’s family.
When I had my first child, I wanted to create our own family traditions and try to include my own family as much as I could, but there was still so much tension regarding my strained family relationships. I found myself trying to be a peace maker, but it was never enough. I was crushed under the weight of trying to please everyone all while trying not to create a wedge in my marriage as well. To be quite honest, I was crushed and wounded regarding my relationships with my family in general because of my strong convictions as a believer in Christ in the midst of an unbelieving (and often hostile) family. The holidays seemed to just intensify those wounds when I would be left extremely disappointed and discouraged.
When we need God’s peace and comfort, we can always run to the Word. Scripture often brings clarity and perspective when our emotions are overwhelming. The psalmist reveals a beautiful truth about God’s love and care for the broken and wounded:
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, ESV).
Instead of allowing our pain and emotions to toss us to and fro, we can find our security and assurance in who God is and how much He loves by finding our foundation in His Word. The wounds of distant, strained, or lost relationships can often run deep, but there is healing found in Christ, who never leaves us nor forsake us. When we are crushed under the weight of our circumstances, we can trust that when we draw near to God, He draws near to us (James 4:8), and His ever-present help will come to our aid to walk us through the pain. You may have been disappointed, grieving, and hurt yet again this holiday season, but don’t find your home in the pain and discouragement. Let us run into His safety and find great comfort in Him!
You know my heart and see my pain before I ever speak a word, but You long for me to make my requests known to You by being honest and intentional in seeking You first no matter what. Help me to remember that You are near to the brokenhearted and that I can run into your safety when I feel crushed by my circumstances and difficult relationships. I know You alone can satisfy my soul more than any other relationship in life. Thank You for setting the lonely in families and for calling me Your child. Surround me with Your grace and help me see Your loving hand working in my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.
My husband Paul and I have been married for almost thirteen years; From day one, we have viewed our roles in the home as 51/49, meaning we realize that God created men to lead the family, so he has an extra measure of responsibility to protect, provide, and guide the family. And hear me clearly, we are equal in value as people, but never equal in role. The husband being the head of the home doesn’t mean the wife doesn’t get a say in what happens in the family or the wife is disconnected from family matters, it means at the end of the day, the husband is held responsible for the decisions made. It is God’s order for the family. Chaos is inevitable if you step out of the bounds of God’s ordained order. You can experience God’s peace by walking out the role He has ordered for you specifically and uniquely, dear sister.
One way a wife can help “lighten the load” for her husband is to fulfill her role in the home with joy and excellence, as well as pray for and encourage her husband in his God-ordained role (despite his short-comings and flaws).
I have several friends who have a husband who is not the spiritual leader of their home, and it makes submission extremely difficult for them when they feel their husband is not “carrying his weight” in this area of the family. God is very much aware of this dynamic, which is most likely why He inspired Peter to pen these encouraging words for wives:
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and [a]respectful behavior”
Regardless if the husband is a believer or not, men have a weightier responsibility that women were not designed to carry- a burden of accountability before the Lord as the leader of the home and family. As wives, we must view this design as the gift it truly is to your womanhood. God simply did not create men and women “equal” in this way. Our roles are different, so it is wise to try not to strap on an unnecessary burden. Eventually, it will harm you, your marriage, and your family. We cannot walk in submission and service in our home without the help of the Holy Spirit, so it is important for us to remember to ask God for His grace, especially when our husbands may not be as involved in our home and children’s lives as we would like. The Lord has given you your husband and your marriage covenant is important to God. He wants to work and change you and your husband’s hearts to reflect His ways as He cultivates the fruit of the Spirit in your lives. Even though nagging may seem like the easy thing to do when we are annoyed or frustrated, let us gain wisdom from the scriptures and win our husbands over with our respect and love, asking the Lord to humble us daily and give us a heart to serve our husbands and our family.
Thank You for the gift of marriage. It is not always easy,but please help me see it as the gift it truly is. Help me to remember to hold my tongue when I am frustrated at my husband and learn to walk in respectful manner towards him. I ask that You would bless my husband as he seeks to support and provide for our family. Move in his heart to hunger after Your Word so that He looks to You most of all as he learns how to lead our family. If he does not know You or love You like I know You and love You, I ask that You would convict his heart to see his great need of the Savior and draw him to the cross. Thank You for my husband and thank You for the order You have placed in the family. I pray Your peace would be our foundation. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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…
…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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
I laid on the cold, sterile exam table feeling uneasy from the moment I parked my car.
I thought to myself, “Paul and I were just here 2 weeks ago. We got to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time and got pictures to show our family. Why did the doctor need to see me again for an ultrasound?”
I told my husband he didn’t have to come with me to this appointment since it would just be a quick routine checkup on the baby’s growth, which is what I was told. Since this was my first pregnancy, I didn’t think anything of it when I put the appointment on my calendar, but the closer I got to the doctor’s office on my drive there, I was starting to worry and question why I needed to be seen again so early on.
Within the first few minutes of the ultrasound, the doctor got very quiet and simply said, “Oh, I hate when this happens.”
“What?” I asked, my heart racing faster and faster.
“There is no heartbeat. I’m so sorry.”
That Kind of Faith
I sat up, tears streaming down my face and let out a big sigh. She asked if I was going to be okay.
With a shaky voice, I pointed her to the One that has always been near to me during times like these.
“I have been through a lot in my short life. I have had some serious valley experiences. My dad was murdered several years ago, two divorces ripped a part my family, serious family illnesses, anxiety, depression…but my faith in God has always gotten me through it. This will be no different. Jesus is faithful.”
She sat across from me still, nodded her head, and said “I’m glad you have that kind of faith. I will give you some time alone…just get dressed and come out whenever you are ready, and we will talk about our options.”
“I knew that I was not alone in my sorrow. God saw me in my pain and did not overlook it.”
Although this baby went on to be with the Lord early on in my pregnancy, Paul and I did not believe this would be the end of our story; we strongly believed God would give us a child, and we would rest and trust in His timing. God was faithful to us and we now have two sons. But do those two sons erase the pain of losing a baby? No.
Although God answered our prayers to have children, He still saw all of those tears and was with me as my heart and body healed. I looked to the only One who could keep me from being crushed under the weight of my grief. I knew that I was not alone in my sorrow. God saw me in my pain and did not overlook it.
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
Psalm 56:8, NLT
The same was true, years before, after I received the news that my dad had been brutally murdered. Honestly, my faith met at a crossroad during that time in my life. Instead of allowing the weight of that loss to completely crush me, I chose to look to Jesus. I chose to call upon the Lord and to stand upon Christ, my solid Rock, and believe He was good and He was in control. I chose to have faith in the One who is near to the brokenhearted.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit”
My family and I are currently going through another valley experience right now, and we are choosing to stand upon God’s Word and cling to Jesus for He is our anchor in this storm. Just a couple days before Independence Day this year, my husband received the devasting phone-call that his younger brother was involved in a tragic drowning accident while he was on vacation with his newlywed wife and friends. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions and physical exhaustion. From the mere shock of this tragedy to consoling parents, friends, and relatives to responding to countless messages, texts, and phone-calls to the planning of funeral arrangements and the days following all of these events.
Although I felt the sting of this tragic loss, I watched my husband, his parents, and my sister-in-law experience the deepest pain imaginable – pain so difficult that it physically hurt. The night Paul received the news, I held him as we both cried, huddled on the couch. He kept grabbing his chest and saying, “I miss him so much. This hurts so bad.” We are all putting one foot in front of the other and walking through the pain with Jesus, trusting that He will continue to heal our broken hearts and believing we will see our precious brother again in heaven someday.
I don’t know if you have ever experienced so much emotional pain that you physically hurt, but in those moments, as humans, we struggle to bring real comfort and healing, whether to ourselves (self- help isn’t the answer, friends) or to others. We can offer our condolences, bring them food, send cards, pray for them, and hold them when they need a shoulder to cry on (all of which we have thankfully experienced these last few weeks), but truthfully, only God can help to bring the comfort, healing, and peace we need during times like these. After all, two of the Holy Spirit’s names are “The Helper” and “Comforter.”
“But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.”
The mighty, all-powerful God who created the entire universe is the same God who draws oh so close to us in our brokenness and pain. The Holy Spirit (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) is our gift from the Father and is nearer than our very breath. Just like John 14:26 says, He will also help us remember what Jesus has told us in Scripture.
In this season of my life, as I ask for strength and grace to help my husband and our family walk through this valley, the Lord is doing so by bringing me to the truth of His Word. After a couple days passed after the news, I was finally able to take off my mom-hat for a few minutes and be alone and process all that had happened. I broke down sobbing in the shower. Although we weren’t siblings by blood, he was my little brother for the last ten years. The pain hit me like a tidal wave, and I cried out to the Lord like I had done countless times before when the heaviness was trying to overwhelm me.
Not only did I sense the nearness of God in the moment, the Holy Spirit brought a verse to my mind that flooded my heart with hope. As soon as I left the shower, I grabbed my phone to look up the Scripture. The Holy Spirit was reminding me to keep my mind fixed on eternity.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
What a beautiful reminder to all of us who might be experiencing pain right now! We may feel pain and sorrow, but that does not mean that we have no hope! Our life is only a vapor (James 4:14), and this place is not our home. We have a promise that one day every tear will be wiped away and pain will be no more:
“[Jesus] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
The Bible is full of truth about eternity and wisdom on how we should live our lives while we are still here on earth. Jesus doesn’t promise that we will escape pain here on earth, but He does promise that He will be with us always (Matthew 28:20).
In your pain and sorrow, cry out to the Lord and walk with the Holy Spirit. Allow Him to bring you true comfort and peace, all while guiding you into truth about the Kingdom to come. Soon and very soon we will be with Him forever, where His perfect love will be all we ever experience. Until then, keep drawing near to Him and He will faithfully draw near to you, just as His Word promises us.