Special Delivery: God’s Great Grace in the Birth of My Fourth Son- Part 3

Click here to read Part 1

Click here to read Part 2

“This, then, is of faith, that everything, the very least, or what seems to us great, every change of the seasons, everything that touches us in mind, body, or estate, whether brought about through this outward senseless nature, or by the will of man, good or bad, is overruled to each of us by the all-holy and all-loving will of God. Whatever befalls us, however it befalls us, we must receive as the will of God. If it befalls us through man’s negligence, or ill-will, or anger, still it is, in even the least circumstance, to us the will of God. For if the least thing could happen to us without God’s permission, it would be something out of God’s control. God’s providence or His love would not be what they are. Almighty God Himself would not be the same God; not the God whom we believe, adore, and love.”

E. B. Pusey

I am so thankful that I have a solid foundational understanding of the sovereignty of God. Nothing slips through His hands. He providentially orchestrates all things that touch our life.

Knowing this, helped me handle a difficult phone call the afternoon of January 9th, 2024, the day before I turned 39 weeks. The fetal and maternal health specialist called me to talk to me about my fasting glucose numbers that hadn’t budged. I asked her what the concern was since my blood pressure was fine and his growth was fine. With no sugar coating whatsoever, she very bluntly responded, “Risk of stillbirth.”

Although I was a bit taken aback by her answer, I believed that most likely was not the case for me since my other numbers were not in question, yet, I chose to rest in God’s sovereignty regarding this phone call and this information presented to me. I asked her about the foley balloon method and she said that was definitely an option for me.

“How would you feel about scheduling your induction for tomorrow?”

Truth be told, friends, I wanted off this rollercoaster and knew that none of this was coincidence. This was all coming to me from God’s hand, even through a doctor’s lack of tact. Even if she was possibly pressuring me with that scary outcome, God was allowing it and giving us an opportunity to trust Him as He gave us wisdom to make the right decisions.

I agreed to proceed with the induction and received a request through the health portal for an appointment at the hospital for 5:30 AM the next day. I called the sweet sister in Christ who was on call to watch the boys and asked if she would be able to come over to hang with the boys while Paul and I were at the hospital. She said she would be at our house by 5 AM and was so excited for us to be so close to meeting baby boy #4! Her joy for us was quite calming for me as I embraced this new unknown experience that was ahead of me.

Considering childcare for the other boys was another thing weighing on Paul and I’s mind, we were so thankful that our boys would be cared for and loved on while we were briefly away. This sweet sister played with them and baked homemade banana bread with them. Even 1,000 miles away from family, God has provided a family for us in so many ways through our amazing church. I let a lot of my friends know about the situation and Paul informed our elders- we had a lot of people praying for us.

Grace.

I had trouble sleeping that night from nerves (and some contractions too) and was woken up by our three year old who wanted to sleep next to me as he had always done pretty much his whole life. He had no idea that his little world was about to change. He was about to become a big brother!

I didn’t even need my alarm to go off at 4:30 AM because my eyes were already wide open as I rolled out of bed to get ready to head to the hospital. After checking into the hospital, we got settled into my birthing suite that overlooked Tampa Bay. As the sun rose, the view got even sweeter. I doubt many people get to labor while looking at water and palm trees out the window. 😊

Grace.

I relayed the birth plan to my nurse who was a sweet homeschooling mama. The midwife on call was also just as sweet…and spunky. She was my hype girl for sure! Our game plan was for me to labor with the foley balloon for about five hours, check my dilation to see how my body was responding to that method and then break my water, knowing that he would most likely come quickly after that since that happened with the other boys. By God’s grace, within 30 minutes of the balloon being inserted, my contractions picked up and labor began to progress wonderfully. I was even able to walk around and labor over a birthing ball for the first time. I implemented breathing exercises this time around and a rocking motion that truly helped me stay focused as I calmly took each contraction as they came. My focal point being Tampa Bay, of course.

One thing that was truly different with this labor was my great need to cry. The oxytocin was truly making me weep; It was beautifully overwhelming in the best way. Within 2.5 hours, the balloon helped me dilate to 4 cm, and he was low enough for the midwife to break my water. That of course was when labor got intense FAST. I continued the swaying motion standing up, but this time, I needed to hold onto Paul’s hand and lean into his shoulder as I had done with my previous labors. He is such an amazing birthing partner; we truly make a great team.

Grace.

Within 30 minutes, I began to vocalize through the contractions so I knew I was approaching transition. I made my way to the bed, got on my knees, and faced the wall with my arms around Paul’s shoulders. As contractions were getting stronger and stronger, and I got the urge to push, I grabbed the bars of the bed and used it to brace myself as I pushed. Within 3 or 4 pushes, he was born!

Grace.

The midwife slipped Jonathan through my legs so I could see him…oh, my goodness…so much hair!!

Our Florida boy was born at 1:20 PM- something I had silently asked the Lord…that he would be born during the day, which is why the view out of the window was so beautiful with that Florida sun shining off the water.

“I did it, I did it!”

Little man’s blood sugar was a little low right after he was born but after sucking on some sugar mixture and eating (he latched perfectly immediately!), his numbers were thankfully normal. He would have to have his glucose checked 4 more times while we were at the hospital, but the numbers were within range each time. Thank You, Lord! We only had to stay at the hospital for 24 hours…another silent prayer answered!

Grace.

So here we are, now seven weeks postpartum, with baby boy laying on my lap, as I wrap up what will most likely be my last birth story. Although it is not exactly how I wanted his birth to go, I trust that God’s hand was upon the whole journey and that His grace carried me the whole way as I know it will continue to do until I take my last breath. I will forever live to tell Jonathan (and my other boys) of this great grace that is ever-sufficient.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV

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Special Delivery: God’s Great Grace in the Birth of My Fourth Son- Part 2

Click here to read Part 1

For me to adequately give God the glory He deserves and highlight His great grace in Jonathan’s life, I wanted to explain more about those “mini storms” in this last pregnancy. I would say morning sickness is one of those “mini storms,” but after experiencing pretty crummy 1st trimesters with all of my pregnancies, I believe I managed to endure it fairly well. I was even able to volunteer at VBS at our church- helping lead the worship songs and dances- right in the middle of the nausea, fatigue, and occasional vomiting in the shower…all for God’s glory. 

A couple weeks prior to that though, I got to experience the first AMA rainstorm regarding routine scans and tests per the prenatal care we decided was best for me. Without divulging too many details for the sake of privacy in our marriage, I want to first say that regarding my prenatal care and where I would give birth, Paul and I had to come to a compromise. Having experienced a traumatic hospital birth with Isaiah, a blissful birth center birth with James, then an unexpected, yet providentially guided hospital birth again with Jude in 2020 that came with complications and trauma of its own (click here to read more about that), finding a group of midwives (vs. a traditional OB) for my prenatal care that delivered at a very well-respected hospital here in Tampa was the middle ground for both Paul and I. 

Because of my AMA label, a routine test and scan were done to ensure there were no genetic abnormalities (the risk of having a baby with Down Syndrome increases as the mother ages). I opted out of the genetic blood screening but chose to have the scan done that measured the fluid behind the baby’s neck (depending on the results, it can be a soft marker for Down’s). Immediately following the scan, I was told that all measurements looked great and was directed to head downstairs to the lab for 1st trimester prenatal bloodwork. After I finished getting my blood drawn, I was gathering my belongings and gathering my little ducklings to head to the van. As I got up from my chair, suddenly, I saw my midwife come from the elevators who just told me moments earlier that everything was “normal” and sent me on my way. Her countenance was now different as she hurriedly told me that the ultrasound tech “couldn’t find the nasal bone” and that “It would be best to get the genetic screening done…and if not, [I] could be referred to a genetic specialist.” Confused and having no clue what any of this had to do with seeing a genetic specialist, I told her that the tech had trouble getting a good profile so perhaps that is why she wasn’t able to see the nasal bone very well.

“It could be another genetic variant,” she kept saying. Trying my best to wrap my mind around what she was trying to explain to me, I agreed to getting the genetic blood test done since I was already there. When I got to the van, I started typing “no nasal bone” into the Google search bar and the next words auto populated…. “down syndrome.” I clicked on the first medical article from the NIH and the summary said, “The absence of a nasal bone is a powerful marker for Down Syndrome.” 

My heart sank. Tearing filling my eyes, I immediately called Paul to update him on this whirlwind of such a confusing situation that just happened. I tried my best to avoid researching anymore when I got home, especially once I got the notification from my online patient portal that my appointment notes were available to view. I scrolled down and saw the words “absent nasal bone.” Paul and I continued to look over the ultrasound photos of the fuzzy profile, yet couldn’t really understand why the obvious white bone of the nose was considered “absent.” Every “normal” ultrasound photo of a profile we Googled looked just like ours. We just couldn’t understand it. 

That night, a precious couple offered to watch the boys for us so that Paul and I could sneak away for a date night (completely unaware about what happened earlier in the day), but neither of us could get our minds off of the heavy news we received as we considered what our life might look like with a child with special needs. It was so overwhelming for me that I had a panic attack in the middle of the night. 

The next day, knowing we wouldn’t receive the genetic screening results for probably two weeks, Paul uploaded the ultrasound photos of our sweet baby’s profile to a paid online health portal with a radiologist for a second opinion. The radiologist confirmed that he saw the nasal bone and was also baffled that they told us it was “absent.” Feeling a little more relieved, we anticipated the genetic screening results in the coming week or so. While waiting for the results, a message came through the online patient portal asking if I wanted to schedule an appointment with a genetic specialist as if they were already assuming there was something abnormal for certain. The message flustered me, but I declined the referral and waited on the test results instead, which much to our relief, stated there were no abnormalities. 

Grace.

The pregnancy continued to progress beautifully as I gained more energy in my second trimester and was able to manage a solo 8-hour road trip from Tampa to Atlanta for the G3 conference to spend time with some sweet sisters in Christ as we learned about the beauty of the sovereignty of God.

In this pregnancy, I needed to be rooted in that doctrine more than ever

Since I did not want to do the traditional glucose test at 26 weeks (I have a horrible migraine reaction to the Glucola drink and chugging 8 oz of grape juice wasn’t an option like it was with my birth center experience), I requested to check my blood sugar with a glucometer instead. What I wasn’t aware of is that I had to check my blood sugar four times a day for 2 weeks. Yikes! 

Funny enough (or not so funny, really), in God’s providence, I would have to continue to do that up until the day that I gave birth! Yay, gestational diabetes diagnosis! 🙃 I received that diagnosis the same day that I would teach to a room full of 140 women at my church on the canon of scripture and the whole counsel of God later that night (all while my 5 year old couldn’t stop vomiting all day). Talk about a day that I needed to trust God for His peace!

The diagnosis officially put me in the high-risk category and was the hardest part for me at the end of the pregnancy, but again, in God’s sovereign providence, it forced me to pay careful attention to my diet and exercise (staying disciplined even through the holidays and my birthday), which I never really did with my other pregnancies. This meant that I didn’t gain as much weight, and I physically felt pretty amazing. 

Grace.

So from November-January, I had to keep track of my glucose levels four times a day/seven days a week and send the numbers every Sunday night to the doctor assigned to me (a fetal and maternal health doctor that I only met once during a virtual visit). That part was honestly the hardest for me emotionally. I felt like I had to turn in my homework to my teacher, and if I was late in sending in my numbers, I would get a message to remind me and face the disappointment that my numbers were only slightly improving. My fasting glucose levels were the only numbers that were out of range consistently…but only slightly out of range; I struggled so much to get those numbers to change even with the diet and exercise changes and taking various supplements to help regulate my blood sugar. 

Around week 34, I received a message in my health portal from a random nurse that said one of the doctors wanted me to start medication since my numbers weren’t decreasing as much as they would like. I immediately got flustered and responded letting her know that I would continue to monitor and regulate to the best of my ability with diet and exercise. In addition to the push for medication, they also wanted to make sure that his growth was on track because Jude was 9.6 lbs. and had shoulder dystocia. That was something that they would remind me of consistently. “We want to make sure he’s not ‘too big.’” Thankfully, his growth was great- he was only in the 35th percentile. Little did I know that they wanted me to have weekly scans up until birth. When I realized they were adding the scans to my already scheduled prenatal appointments, I politely declined.

Deep breaths, Emily…you’re almost done.

The next week I received the same message about being put on medication because the numbers were still slightly out of range. I got flustered again and declined the medication again. A few days later, I received a direct message from my fetal and maternal health specialist asking if I would monitor my glucose levels in the middle of the night around 2 AM for a couple nights to see where my levels were at. If the number was too low, then we know why my body was overcompensating with raising my blood sugar; if they were too high then we would know my body really was struggling to produce insulin at night. The first night, the number was way too high at 2am, which greatly concerned me. I agreed to try the medication so my body could finish strong, even though I absolutely hated the idea of taking medication while pregnant, not knowing how that would impact the baby’s growth and health. 

But in God’s providence, the night that I took the medication, I discovered that I was in fact allergic- within 30 minutes, my lips, tongue, and face all went numb for three hours, but thankfully, didn’t get any worse. I would not have to take medication after all.

Grace.

Of course, once I told my doctor about the side effects, she advised me to not take the medication, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for the remainder of my pregnancy because they were beginning to talk about induction. 

At my 38-week appointment, we agreed to one last growth scan to ensure that they could not push for induction based upon his size, so I had Paul come with me just in case that topic came up. The typical protocol for a gestational diabetes diagnosis is induction at 39 weeks. The midwife that I met with that day at my appointment was very understanding of my concerns and was in full support of seeing where things were at by 40 weeks (I had only gone a day or two past 40 weeks in the past so I was confident things would most likely go the same way this time around…my water broke with all of my boys). 

Yet, I was still nervous as we neared 40 weeks; I did not want to be pressured into anything and wanted as many options available as possible. I began researching more about a natural induction method that I heard about regarding a foley balloon (Google it, it’s fascinating). I sent out a message asking about that method and was upset to discover that even if I chose that route, they wouldn’t allow me to go home to labor with it (some birth centers will let you go home with the balloon in place to labor at home), and they would still need to place an induction on the schedule (most likely to use Pitocin in case I didn’t progress with the balloon method). I did NOT want Pitocin. Even though I was beginning to have consistent contractions, I still felt stuck and unsure of what to do. 

It was emotional for me, but I was trying my best to lean upon Him and take it moment by moment even with all the unknowns ahead. Yet, He truly was giving me His peace, and it wouldn’t be that much longer before I held precious Jonathan in my arms.

Grace.

I kept reminding my heart of God’s great sovereignty in all things. God was orchestrating all of this. Even in the difficulties, His grace continued to shine through.

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Putting Off Sinful Anger

The other day, a post from a mommy blog with the title “We’re Allowed to Be Angry” caught my eye in my Facebook feed. The headline caption read: “Maybe it’s not ‘mom rage.’ Maybe it’s that mom is doing everything for everybody else and is having her needs met less than everyone else in the house.” Essentially, the short blog was highlighting the fact that the overwhelming demands and expectations put on mothers are deserving of anger. Understandably, this article was not written by a believer, so the advice given to justify moms being angry when life gets challenging would not be Biblical. Although it was a bit disheartening to read the comments on this post, I am thankful that I do not have to run to mommy blogs for insight on how to navigate the challenging seasons of motherhood especially when it comes to my emotions that can lead me to sin. Instead of justifying my anger and outbursts in the trenches as a mom, I can run to the scriptures to find direction and wisdom.

In the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul makes an interesting and helpful correlation between anger and the schemes of the enemy:

“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

(Ephesians 4:26-27, NASB)

The Lord created us with a ray of emotions and understands that it is completely normal to experience overwhelming feelings when we are stressed, disappointed, offended, rejected, and hurt- especially anger. Here, in Ephesians chapter four, we read that being angry is going to happen, but that is not the issue. The issue arises when we do not control our emotions and allow our anger to consume us so much that it causes us to react to that anger in sinful behavior or actions. For me, when I struggle with this sinful behavior the most, I can often allow myself to outburst by yelling at my children, slamming doors behind me, or saying hurtful words towards the ones that I deeply love. When I allow myself to lose control in those situations, the enemy is given an opportunity to cause destruction in both my own life and others’. If anger is not controlled, it can lead to more destructive behavior. Jesus even tells us in the sermon on the mount that anger towards a brother is equivalent to murder (Matthew  5). God is after our heart, and He does not want anger to remain in it and breed more sin.

Intersecting Faith and Life:

Obviously, I see how my flesh and the enemy can lure me into those kinds of sinful behaviors when my emotions get the best of me, but I don’t have to take the bait. Anger will inevitably come, but I can choose to process those emotions with the Lord and with those whom I am feeling angry towards. It is not healthy to go to sleep angry either, so it is important to settle those frustrations quickly so that reconciliation and peace can be found. When anger leads us to act out sinfully, we are given an opportunity to run to the throne of grace and receive Christ’s mercy when we repent for our sin. God is faithful to forgive us and strengthen us with His grace to overcome every temptation to lash out in anger. May the Lord help us renew our mind with His Word and give us the patience we need to endure frustrations with self-control. Anger will present itself in our heart, but we do not have to be trapped by it. The Lord will provide a way of escape, so let us look to Him for help to handle those overwhelming feelings. 

Further Reading: 

  • James 1:19-21
  • Ecclesiastes 7:9
  • Proverbs 15:18
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Guarding Your Mouth

As Christ followers, our speech should reflect Him and His ways 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. 

I admit, I struggle with taming my tongue, especially if I am caught up in my emotions and/or sleep deprived or hungry. My flesh wants to rule, and one way that happens in my life is how I am wielding my words. 

If there was one verse from the Bible that I should have tattooed under my eyelids, it would be from Psalm 141:

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3, NKJV).

This has become a constant prayer for me, especially as I am seeing how my speech is influencing my children. Children are little sponges, and they pick up on everything we say and do. My oldest is becoming a master of sarcasm thanks to me. I see my sinful speech tendencies in my children, and I don’t want these habits to form into consistent behavior. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34), so our words are a reflection of what is going on in our heart. We should take pause when we see ungodly speech become consistent in our life, repent, and ask God to help us guard our mouth and choose our words wisely or know when to be silent. 

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 or speak ungraciously about someone, but to use our tongue to proclaim our thankfulness unto the Lord as well as speak good and edifying things of others. 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.

Dear Lord,

I repent for using my tongue to puff myself up above others, complain about my circumstances, or hurt 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. Help me to guard my mouth and to choose my words wisely or know when it’s best not to say anything at all. When my flesh wants to rule, I trust that You provide a way out every time I am tempted to use my words in a foolish way. 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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What does it mean to “die daily?”

As a mom and wife, I am given countless opportunities to set aside my wants and sacrifice my love, time, and attention to the needs of my husband and children. Pouring yourself out like that on a daily basis can sometimes be physically exhausting; I find myself praying for supernatural strength often! Yet, at the end of the day, even though I am tempted to wonder where my “me time” is, my heart is always full. 

This is when I begin to see more clearly what the Apostle Paul meant when he said: “I die daily”.

The Biblical principle of dying to yourself has always been true, but I didn’t always live it or even understand it. Becoming a stay-at-home mom has challenged me in more ways than I can count in the area of putting others before myself, and I am always learning and finding that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive. 

As Jesus’ disciples, we are called to follow Him. That was Paul’s mission in life – to imitate Christ. And it is what he and the rest of the apostles literally gave their lives to preach to the world through their words and actions. We may not ever get the honor to literally die for Jesus Christ because of our faith in Him, but by God’s grace, we can imitate His selflessness every day.

The apostle Paul emphasizes his great desire to join Christ in His suffering and become like Christ in his daily dying of self:

“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10, ESV).

To be able to imitate Christ and enjoy this kind of fellowship with Him, we must look to Jesus as our example. Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, He still leaned upon God the Father for everything He said and did while He walked this earth. Jesus would rise early to pray and seek God for His will for the day.

In addition to seeking God in prayer, Jesus obediently submitted Himself to the will of the Father, even unto death. Each day, we are faced with the temptation to satisfy our flesh and go outside the boundaries of God’s perfect will. We discover what that will is when we read the Bible and study it for ourselves to learn God’s ways. We are not perfect, but thankfully Jesus was, and because of His sacrifice on the cross, we have been given the precious gift of the Holy Spirit as born-again believers. 

The characteristics of Jesus’ death should be the characteristics of our lives: humility, sacrifice, and glory to God through disciple-making. Ultimately, Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve others (Mark 10:45). Jesus ministered to thousands upon thousands of people during His time here on earth. John 22 tells us that if all the things Jesus did were all written down, the entire world could not contain the books that would be written! Dying daily definitely isn’t easy, but it is worth it because Jesus promises us that whoever loses his life will find it and find it abundant (Matthew 10:39/ John 10:10)!

But remember, we cannot die daily in our own strength, friends. The Holy Spirit is who empowers us to choose God’s way through the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). With each passing day, by God’s grace, we mature and cultivate a life worth dying for, a life found in Christ alone! Living like Christ’s dying is a continual process of humility and sacrifice. May God empower us to die daily and choose others above ourselves.

Heavenly Father,

My flesh wants nothing to do with denying it of anything. I don’t want to experience suffering. But it is in those moments of dying to self that I become more like Christ. Help me to embrace those trials and sufferings so that I may grow closer to You. I want my life to look like Christ’s dying by learning how to be humble and sacrificial. Instead of resisting those difficult times, help me to find great opportunities of sanctification to be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus. Thank You for Your Spirit that empowers me to die daily. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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The Beauty of Sanctification

I am a mama of three precious boys, and each one is special to me. My oldest son recently turned eight years old, and one of my favorite things to do leading up to my sons’ birthdays is to look through old photos of them and the memories we have shared. My heart swells when I see sweet memories pop up on Facebook on the day each one was born. As I was reflecting upon these last eight years, not only have I watched my boys grow up, but I can’t help but see how much the Lord has changed me and grown me in the midst of motherhood too.

According to the Bible this process of change and growth in the Lord is called sanctification. According to the website gotquestions.org:
“The word sanctification is related to the word saint; both words have to do with holiness. To “sanctify” something is to set it apart for special use; to “sanctify” a person is to make him holy.”

Knowing how many times I have failed as a mother (losing my patience and temper with my children countless times), I am thankful that just like our regeneration when the Lord makes us born-again, sanctification is a work of the Spirit in our heart and life. We partner with the Holy Spirit in the process of our sanctification, but God is the faithful One who does the deep work of transformation.

Paul’s final exhortation in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica reveals this beautiful truth to us as he proclaims:
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, NIV).

God will sanctify us because He wants to see us conformed to the image of Christ. When we are saved, we are given Christ’s righteousness and that will never change no matter what. Our position in Christ is forever fixed. Nothing can snatch us from His hand We will never be perfect this side of heaven, which is why we rest in the finished work of the cross of Christ, but we should be walking in holiness little by little each passing day. One way this occurs in our life is through studying the scriptures and other spiritual disciplines such as prayer, serving others, and consistent discipleship and evangelism. The Spirit of God guides us into all truth and convicts our heart of sin. The more study the Bible and exercise spiritual discipline, the more the Holy Spirit renews our mind. This renewal of the mind helps us to think on eternal matters and soon, worldly thinking and fleshly desires become less of a temptation for us the longer we walk with the Lord. Our behavior and attitude begin to change, and God gives us a desire to love, obey, and serve Him with fervor! This is transformation is something I am so grateful to have experienced these last eight years. I cannot wait to see what the next eight years (and beyond, Lord willing) has in store for me. May the God of peace continue to sanctify us through and through!

Father God,
I long for my life to reflect You so that others see how excellent and perfect Your ways are compared to the ways of this world that is fallen, corrupt, and void of Your perfect love and truth. I often fail and give into fleshly temptation, and I thank You that I have been justified and made righteous in Your sight because of Your Son, Christ Jesus! You still desire for me to mature and grow in my walk, despite my shortcomings. You are a God who transforms and purifies, so I ask that You would help me renew my mind with Your Word so that I can know the good, acceptable, and perfect will of Yours and see my life conformed to the image of Your Son. You are faithful to do this work of sanctification in my life, so thank You for strengthening me in my spiritual disciplines. May I have a testimony of a great transformation to give You all the glory! 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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Weeping in the night, Joy in the Morning

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

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

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

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

Psalm 30:4-5, NASB

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

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

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Raising Tiny Disciples

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 22:6, NASB

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

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

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Where are my Titus 2 ladies at?

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled”

(Titus 2:3-5, ESV).

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

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

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

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled”

(Titus 2:3-5, ESV).

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

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

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

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

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

Father God,

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

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