A few years ago, the Lord gave me a wonderful opportunity to mentor and disciple a few young women from a former church that my husband and I attended several years prior. It turned out that word started getting around that these young ladies had been associating with me, and the pastors of this church did not approve. One young lady was told that she needed to disconnect from me immediately because my husband and I were dangerous individuals…we were called “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Once the shock wore off from hearing such statements said about us, I knew I was faced with two options of how to handle these accusations: allow those words to embitter me towards my former pastors or lay down my offense at the foot of the cross, forgive, and pray for them.
In one of Jesus’ sermons in Luke 6, He gives great wisdom to those who are recipients of hurtful words and actions from others:
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28, NIV).
A few verses later, He simply states that one should do unto others that we would want done to us (Luke 6:31). As one who is a peace-keeper by nature, I typically struggle when I know someone has a problem with me. I am not one to burn bridges or cut people off. Of course, there is such thing as boundaries, but I have always tried to keep my heart free from offense; I admit, that I haven’t always been able to shake off those stings from words spoken about me. Knowing that offense will undoubtably come, I must be quick to forgive and quick to pray for those who mistreat me. It’s difficult to hold onto offense when you are purposely and intentionally praying for the person who hurt you. It doesn’t mean that we can always forget the action or words wielded against us, but it does mean that we cannot hold onto it. One of the best ways to guard our heart from bitterness is to ask God to bless those who curse us. You won’t have space in your heart for offense when you are approaching the throne of grace on behalf of that enemy.
Unforgiveness is bondage; It is a yoke that slowly tightens around our neck and chokes the life out of us. Bitterness is like a cancer that spreads throughout your whole body and affects you completely and everything and everyone around you. We are given many opportunities every single day to take the bait to become offended and hold grudges, but it is so important that we hold onto Jesus and His powerful Word- God’s perfect truth.
I don’t know who you may need to forgive. I don’t know how deep the pain goes, how big or small the offense may be. I don’t know how long you have carried that burden with you, but I do know that you need to forgive, and you don’t have to do it in your own strength. God has given you the Holy Spirit to help you, to heal you, to change your heart. Let’s ask Him to help us lift our enemies up to Him so that we can be free and honor God.
I come to You today first and foremost with a grateful heart that You would lavish Your mercy and love upon me, someone who has sinned against You, oh, Holy and righteous Creator God! Thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus, who stood in my place to die a death that I deserved so that I could be forgiven, justified, and restored back to You to now be called Your child. If I am holding onto unforgiveness against someone who has hurt me or gravely sinned against me, I repent and forgive that person immediately. I have no right to harbor unforgiveness against anyone, and as Your child, You call me to forgive others because I have been forgiven by You. I choose to obey You, no matter how difficult it may be for me. I trust Your Spirit will empower me to forgive and love others how You have forgiven and love me. Help me heal from the wounds that may have been caused by the hands of others. I pray for their heart that they would walk in repentance and walk in forgiveness and know and trust You like I do. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The weekend of Father’s Day is always difficult for me. My dad’s birthday is so close to Father’s Day (sometimes actually falling on Father’s Day) so it’s kind of a double whammy when your dad is no longer here. It’s even more difficult when the reason your dad is gone is because someone brutally took his life, so, for me, there are always a lot of heavy emotions attached to the third weekend in June. Regarding the man who took my dad’s life, many might shout “That man should burn in hell for what he did!” Yet, I have never stopped preaching, “We must forgive!” because I know the severity of holding onto the wrongs that others have done to us. It simply is not worth it, my friends, no matter how justified we may feel regarding the sins that have been done to us. Jesus shares this sobering truth in the book of Matthew about forgiving others no matter what:
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14, NIV).
Just like all of humanity, I have fallen short of the glory of God, and I need my sins to be forgiven and washed clean by the finished work of the cross of Jesus Christ. Oh, what love has been extended to me that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8)! If Christ died for me and has forgiven me, someone who has sinned against a Holy and righteous God, how could I possibly withhold forgiveness to another image bearer of God?
Knowing what the Bible says about forgiveness, I immediately chose to forgive and move on with both my life with Christ and the man who is now my husband. I didn’t want to harbor unforgiveness or bitterness in my heart that would undoubtedly grow like a cancer. It is not that I don’t love or miss my dad terribly; It is because dwelling on this wicked tragedy will never bring my dad back, but more than that, I know that I must obey God to forgive those who sin against me. I know that justice belongs only in the hands of the Lord. It took six years, but the man who murdered my father was eventually charged with a guilty sentence. He will serve up to 45 years in prison as a punishment for his actions. The Lord brings vindication, most assuredly, but, most of all, I long for that man to repent of what he did and find a life-changing relationship with Jesus like I have found. I can’t say that I have found the strength to pray a prayer like this or the strength to forgive from solely within myself. No, my strength to pray for and forgive the man who murdered my dad comes only from God’s grace and the power and might of the Holy Spirit.
Oh, believer, we need the love and presence of our heavenly Father from now until eternity! Oh, unbeliever, repent and turn from your sins, and rebellion and come to Christ to be lavished in His mercy and forgiveness! If you are harboring unforgiveness towards another, release it now, don’t wait! I urge you to repent and receive the forgiveness of the Father today and find strength in Jesus to learn to walk in total forgiveness, even in the midst of the darkest of evil and sin against you. Oh, what freedom and peace you will find!
I come to you today first and foremost with a grateful heart that You would lavish Your mercy and love upon me, someone who has sinned against You, oh, Holy and righteous Creator God! Thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus, who stood in my place to die a death that I deserved so that I could be forgiven, justified, and restored back to You to now be called Your child. If I am holding onto unforgiveness against someone who has hurt me or gravely sinned against me, I repent and forgive that person immediately. I have no right to harbor unforgiveness against anyone, and as Your child, You call me to forgive others because I have been forgiven by You. I choose to obey You, no matter how difficult it may be for me. I trust Your Spirit will empower me to forgive and love others how You have forgiven and love me. Help me heal from the wounds that may have been caused by the hands of others. I pray for their heart that they would walk in repentance and walk in forgiveness and know and trust You like I do. In Jesus’ name, amen.
I woke up one morning recently crying after having a very vivid, heart-piercing dream. It was almost as if my current heart-struggle was being played out right before me; I could honestly see this dream happening in reality.
The words that were spoken (in the dream) to me and my husband cut to the core, and they hurt so badly that my first reaction was tears so strong that they stained my cheeks when I awoke.
Being a story-teller allows for intense dream-tales in my mind while I’m supposed to be resting, sleeping. It’s something I have always dealt with since I was a child- I wake up trying to shake the mental visions, telling myself over and over again that it’s not real. Eventually, the emotions fade, and I can go on with the rest of my day.
In this recent instance, I had trouble getting passed the pain and just began talking to God about it. It was very obvious and simple- I was still dealing with rejection and it still hurt, but I was reminded that there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
Although Proverbs 18:24 doesn’t necessarily say that friend is Jesus, I know that He will always be there for me even when everyone else fails me. Scripture tells us that God never leaves us or forsakes us in Deuteronomy 31:6. This truth from the Old Testament about our never-changing God is also stated again as a reminder in Hebrews 13, along with this powerful truth that people will fail us, and people may reject us, but we should not fear, for God is on our side. He is our helper.
“…for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” 6 so that we confidently say,
When we face rejection from others, we must remember that Jesus understands more than anyone what rejection feels like, as He is very familiar with it Himself. Many people rejected Jesus (and continue to do so) while He was here on earth, even one of His very own disciples (Judas) rejected Him and betrayed Him. And just a couple hours later, another one of His closest disciples (Peter) rejected knowing Him. Three times to be exact. Aren’t you so thankful for Jesus’ forgiveness when we turn our backs on Him! He gives us so many opportunities to repent and make things right in our relationship with Him! His mercies towards us are new every single morning…oh, what love! The Lord understands our pain regarding rejection and His arms are open wide, so let us be quick to draw near to Him. Lo, He is always with you…even to the end of the age!
I’m hurting. I don’t want to hold onto this pain of rejection. I want to heal from the wounds of those who have hurt me. I choose to forgive. I want You to bless those who hurt me, even if they don’t want me in their life anymore. Your Son was rejected, even by You, for a moment when He took the punishment of sin, out of love for me. Thank You, Jesus, for being the friend I need who sticks by me no matter what. I love You, Lord. Thank You for always loving me and never leaving me. 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.
Although it was six years ago, it’s still fresh in my mind- the day that the man who murdered my father received his official guilty sentence- life in prison. He was sentenced to 60 years of his life, not free, but behind bars, given a great opportunity to think on his actions for the rest of his life on this earth.
The murder occurred in November 2008, so it took many years for the sentence to be finalized. While many of my dad’s side of the family still doesn’t fully understand, I chose not to become involved in the pursuit of making sure that this man “paid for what he had done.”
There was much commotion and to be quite frank, drama, via social media between family members over the course of a few days that resulted in hateful and bitter comments regarding events in my dad’s life that occurred almost 20 years ago- my parent’s divorce being one of them. My heart was heavy to think that in the midst of such tragedy, people would choose to argue over issues that they have no control over any longer, and truthfully, no business being involved in whatsoever. The tragedy of losing my father actually paled in comparison to the unforgiveness and bitterness that surfaced between my family members.
Unforgiveness is bondage.
It is a yoke that slowly tightens around our neck and chokes the life out of us.
Bitterness is like a cancer that spreads throughout your whole body and affects you completely and everything and everyone around you.
We are given many opportunities every single day to take the bait to become offended and hold grudges, but it is so important that we hold onto Jesus and His powerful Word- God’s perfect truth.
The Apostle Paul explains to us the freedom we find in Christ and urges us to not become entangled in sin in Galatians 5:1:
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (ESV).
Although Paul is not speaking of unforgiveness specifically in this verse, we do know that unforgiveness is sin that will separate us from God.
Jesus explains to us at the end of the Lord’s Prayer:
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
When He was crucified and His blood poured out to accomplish God’s ultimate salvation plan for the world (John 3:16), our sins were thrown as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and we no longer had to be slaves to sin- we were made free!
When we stand before God in prayer (and eventually at the end of this life here on earth), He sees what Jesus has done. He sees His Son’s precious blood, and the price that Jesus paid with His very life just so that you and I could have a relationship with Our Heavenly Father through Christ.
So why would we deliberately choose bondage by allowing unforgiveness and bitterness to plague our hearts and hinder fellowship with God and the love of others?
I don’t know who you may need to forgive. I don’t know how deep the pain goes, how big or small the offense may be. I don’t know how long you have carried that burden with you, but I do know that you need to forgive, and you don’t have to do it in your own strength. God has given you the Holy Spirit to help you, to heal you, to change your heart. You are given the choice to be the one to make the move. You must choose to forgive. Don’t wait. Do it today. Do it right now. You will experience such great freedom that Jesus so passionately laid down His life for you to have.
October 11, 2014 at 2:19 am. A moment in time I will never forget.
Not only because I became a mother for the first time, but because my eyes were opened to the reality that I needed to be a daughter to my own mother.
To be completely honest, leading up to the birth of my son, my relationship with my mom wasn’t where it once was many years prior. To put it simply, I reached a point because of so much hurt, disappointment, and rejection from so many people in my life that I told myself that I couldn’t rely on anyone any longer, especially her. She became just another person in my life, and one who I dreaded seeing her name on my phone’s screen when she called.
Of course I loved her, but I kept her at arm’s length because I didn’t want to risk being hurt once again. I was a big girl now; I didn’t need my mom. But in that delivery room, although I had no idea, I needed my mom. She heard me from the waiting room and couldn’t bare it any longer, so she invited herself into the delivery room. Although my husband and I had decided to keep the experience private, I was so glad she busted through those doors!
Because my contractions stalled, I was then experiencing Pitocin-induced contractions and needed as much support as I could during the “breaks” I would get in between each wave of pain. I remember looking up at her and crying out to her- even calling her “mommy” at one point, which I NEVER called her that before in my life. I truly believe it came from the deep recesses of my heart. Having my mom there in that room, massaging my back, encouraging me, and holding my hand was one of the most special moments I have ever experienced with her in my entire life. I am so thankful for it and will treasure it forever.
As the hours went by, another person I struggled to fully embrace entered the room- my mother-in-law. Our relationship had become very surface-level over the last few years because of the same reasons as my mom and I’s relationship- I feared rejection and disappointment and put up walls around my heart, loving at a distance. She never stopped loving me and never stopped praying for me, even in that delivery room. I am so thankful for her prayers throughout the whole laboring process and so thankful for our now-restored and renewed relationship.
I find it so absolutely beautiful that God would take such a physically painful experience and make something so wonderful and life-changing in so many ways for me. I saw years that the enemy had stolen from me be restored to me in an instant and God is continuing to heal and strengthen even more still as the years have gone by.
I thought that the birth of my firstborn would be the only miracle I would witness that mid-October day in 2014, but God had so much more in store for me. I thought that day would be about me becoming a mother, but God had greater plans, as I got my mother and mother-in-law back that day. His love for me completely overwhelms my heart!
God’s grace and love have carried me through these last five and a half years of being a mother, now to two little boys (and another sweet prince on the way!) and I am in awe of the miraculous restoration that has occurred in my relationship with my mom and mother-in-law over the years.
Now every time I look at my children, and I think about how much I love them and how I would do anything to give them all that they need, I am reminded of how much God loves me and cares about all aspects of my life, including my relationships. I am able to pour out that same love without hindrance to all that He places in my life. Because God gave me the gift of becoming a mother, I am able to love so much greater as a daughter. For that, I am forever grateful!
(Thank you, Mom…I love you a bushel and peck and a hug around the neck! Happy Mother’s Day!)
The original version of How My Son Help Me Become a Better Daughter was first featured on iBelieve.com.