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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Salty and Bright!


This blog has been on my heart for some weeks now, but I've been all wrapped up in preparing for the birth of my baby boy, that I haven't taken a moment to sit down and actually write it.  Well, the little man is past his due date, and Mommy and Daddy have everything in place for his arrival...Nursery prepped- check!  Baby books read- check!  Thanksgiving pies baked and eaten- check!  Christmas tree decorated and stockings hung- check! Gingerbread cookies frosted- check!  So I think today I shall take a breather and just write! December 1st marks for many the beginning of what we call the Advent season.  Advent is a word we often toss around during this time of year, but not many of us truly comprehend it's full meaning, which is historically fascinating and spiritually rich.  I encourage you to read Justin Holcomb's article in Christianity Today, "What is Advent?" to grasp a greater understanding of this beautiful season.  To preface my own reflections and create a framework for where I am going with this blog, let me share a few quotes from Holcomb's article:

"Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these "last days"...as God's people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate His eternal Kingdom.  The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah...Reflection on the violence and evil in the world cause us to cry out to God to make things right- to put death's dark shadows to flight.  Our exile in the present makes us look forward to our future Exodus. And our own sinfulness and need for grace leads us to pray for the Holy Spirit to renew His work in conforming us into the image of Christ...It is only in the shadow of Advent that the miracle of Christmas can be fully understood and appreciated; and it is only in the light of Christmas that the Christian life makes any sense...The promise for Israel and the promise for the church is Jesus Christ; He has come, and He will come again.  This is the essence of Advent."

Indeed, our world is filled with violence and it seems everywhere that evil abounds.  Not to mention, our own dark sin is more than we would like to admit.  We truly need a Savior.  And that Savior is not a politician, our next president, a pastor, Santa Claus in the latest Hallmark movie, or anyone in-between.  We cannot save ourselves, and as much as we try to do good, as much as we try to change the world for the better, we always fall short and it's not enough.  Nothing is new under the sun, as the wise King Solomon once wrote, "Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course...All things are wearisome, more than one can say...What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again..." (Ecclesiastes 1:4-9)

We turn on the news and we see riots, racial divides, political protests, terror attacks, and so much more.  Some days it might feel like the world is "falling apart," yet none of this is new.  When we look back through the course of history, we see the story told over and over again. Brokenness, sin, pain, hatred...all culminating in our hearts to a desperate need for a Savior.  He came once, over 2,000 years ago, making His grand appearance in a messy stable in Bethlehem- God Incarnate, Emmanuel, Love Personified.  It's the story of Christmas that captures us, wide-eyed and filled with wonder, year after year.  What is the most wonderful part of the story?  That the story is not over!  We can be assured that He is coming again!  In that promise alone, our hope lies.


"Unfulfilled and fulfilled promise are related to each other, as are dawn and sunrise.  Both are promise and in fact the same promise.  If anywhere at all, then it is precisely in the light of the coming of Christ that faith has become Advent faith, the expectation of future revelation.  But faith knows for whom and for what it is waiting.  It is fulfilled faith because it lays hold on the fulfilled promise."  - Karl Barth

I remember the week of the election, a dear friend texting this Scripture passage to me as a reminder from our Lord Jesus Christ of our place in this world, when everyone seems so divided:

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?  It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men.  You are the light of the world.  A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.  So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophet.  I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.  For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled..." 
- Matthew 5:13-18

Immediately my heart leapt with a flutter of joy.  This passage put all into perspective, and I was called back to the sacred eternal truth of Who my Savior is and who I am in Christ.  It suddenly dawned on me- tis the season to be salty and bright!  Yes, we are encouraged this time of year to be merry and bright, to be festive and cheerful.  All the holiday music which hit the stores it seems before even Halloween.  All the red and green and tinsel and lights.  The parties and cookies and family gatherings and decorations.


But it isn't always easy- putting on our "merry face," especially when our hearts hide burdens.  Loved ones lost in the past year, pending perilous diagnosis, job uncertainty, strained family relationships, fear, doubt, feeling let down or just downright down!  I had a friend just yesterday who was in bed all day because her heart felt so depressed by various situations going on around her.  We can only feign happiness for so long until it catches up with us.  We can only post so many pictures on instagram that make our lives look like holiday perfection until we realize that it's not the whole, true story.  There is real pain in this world.  I reiterate Justin Holcomb's statement, "Reflection on the violence and evil in the world cause us to cry out to God to make things right- to put death's dark shadows to flight."  Amen and amen.

So how do we carry the light and spread the salt?  Well, first, we must remember that we, in and of ourselves are not the light nor the salt.  Rather, we abide in the Light of the World, and we dive into the deep Ocean of His love that soaks us in His salt.  Then we choose to not hide it.  We choose to allow our Savior and His grace to work through us, shining that ever-present, everlasting light into the souls of men.  We say yes to allowing Christ to be the savory blessing of our lives, and as we soak that blessing in more and more, it overflows toward others around us.

The apostle Paul gave wonderful tips for starters in Colossians 4:2-6:

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

It seems that being salty and bright begins with prayer.  It begins with a thankful heart, keeping watch for all the good blessings God has given.  It begins with interceding on behalf of others- praying for them during their trials and pain, and praising God for their victories.  It begins with asking God to open the door.  It begins with waking every day and looking for those opportunities to share the light, to share the salt!  During advent, that could be the simple act of baking cookies for the neighbor you hardly know.  It could be forgiving your loved one who hurt you so badly.  It could be caroling and spreading good old-fashioned Christmas joy to strangers.  It could be thinking twice before speaking, and allowing the Holy Spirit to give you gentle, loving words when you respond to another person's hostility.  It could be rejoicing in another's gain, when you have felt the deep sadness of a loss.  It could be reaching out to someone who is mourning or suffering, even when you are in a season of ease.  It could be letting the elderly lady behind you in line at the store go ahead of you during the holiday hustle and bustle.

Remember, we cannot be salty and bright if we do not get our own fill of salt and light.  It is imperative, especially at this time of year, to soak our hearts and minds in the light of Christ's promise, and fill our souls with the salt of salvation's message.  I encourage you to take time each day to reflect on Advent, to think upon the true meaning of Christmas.  Dig into the Word of God, which will always fill you with promise and perfect peace.  Some of my favorite books for Advent reflection are 25 Days, 26 Ways to Make This Your Best Christmas Ever by Ace Collins and Phyllis Tickle's Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany From The Divine Hours.  There are so many books and songs and ways to fill our hearts with truth and joy, that we might begin filling up with abounding light and salt in order touch our little corner of the world with Christ's hope.


I want to finish by sharing one of the most incredible passages of Scripture written by Paul, Philippians 2:1-16, where He quotes one one of the earliest church creed-hymns.

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  

...Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.' Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the Word of Life."


Tis the Season to be Salty and Bright!



Friday, October 21, 2016

Beautiful Mess


Have you ever woken up, and when reality hit you, it felt more like a dream than real life?  A dream you wish you weren't living, because everything is just too unknown, too over-your-head, too much of a mess...There comes a time in each of our lives when life just happens, and it seems to be way beyond what we can handle.  It's called brokenness.  We live in an imperfect, fallen world, which is being redeemed and reconciled through Christ (He's already won the victory, but He has yet to return for that final completion of the battle).  Yes, He paid it all on the cross and He is daily making all things new, but we're not promised always an easy road in this lifetime, without blood, sweat, and tears.  Rather, we are promised trial and testing, time and again through Scripture.  Trials to refine our faith in the fire, to mold our souls closer to the image and likeness of our Savior Jesus.  

One day I was sitting with a friend and sweet sister in Christ in a cafe, just sharing with one another about life, opening up our hearts, and talking about the Lord.  She was referencing this idea of life being a mess, yet a beautiful one.  It made me pause for a moment and think about how we need to intentionally seek out beauty in the midst of the chaos this life so often becomes.  I shortly thereafter sat down at my piano and innocently wrote a song called "Beautiful Mess".  Little did I know on that day that very soon after, my world would turn upside-down, and my life would become a mess that was completely out of my hands.  As I faced the shock of it all, I would need to surrender everything, all of me, to the Lord.  Little did I know that I would be facing a diagnosis that was so unknown...that my future was completely held in the hands of God.  Little did I know that on this journey, I would meet a man who would capture my heart, and yet in the middle of my health battle and journey, he would face his own medical diagnosis that was more than daunting.  Yes, it seemed like our lives had turned into a mess.  And yet, in the midst of it all, Christ was doing something beyond beautiful, and we became witnesses of miracle after miracle.  


That journey began over two years ago, and life has never been, and never will be, the same.  I would not have chosen the messy road, but that road of mud and mountains and valleys and thickets and thorns has done a beautiful work in my heart, showing me the glory of our Lord and the reconciliation and redemption of His creation in such a powerful way.  This month, on October 11, we released the song "Beautiful Mess" to you all for the first time, and even that day will forever be one we remember, as my husband's Grandmother went home to be with Jesus.  It was a day filled with mourning and with rejoicing.  The losses of this life are so very real, and yet the victory of the life we await is an even greater reality for those whose hope in the Lord.

"Beautiful Mess" has been the anthem of my heart during my journey over the past two years.  As a songwriter, only a few of my songs stand out that are so incredibly personal to my story and my life.  I've seen firsthand how the Sovereign Lord can take the mess and chaos of life, and bring beauty and miracles out of it all.  I am truly in awe of the grace and power of God.  I pray that this song speaks deeply to those who hear it, as a reminder of hope, which anchors the soul- hope rooted in Jesus Christ alone.  At times, our personal lives are a mess.  It could be a health hurdle, or it could be a relational struggle.  It could be financial.  It could be emotional or physical.  It's hard enough to handle our own lives day in and day out, but then add to that the mess of our nation during these times, and the mess of our world today.  It's not uncommon for hearts to despair.  I challenge you to read the following passages and take heart.  I challenge you to look at the mess you may be walking in today through a new perspective- may your eyes see beauty and your soul see miracles, for both beauty and miracles are very present and both are the greater than the physical reality around us.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him."  - Lamentations 3: 19-24

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all the fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross."  - Colossians 1:15-20

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them.  And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." - 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Number our Days

This has been a year of milestones and markers...In February, we celebrated one year since my surgery.  In March, we found out we are expecting a miracle baby.  In April, we celebrated one year since Jamie's surgery.  In May, we celebrated one year since our engagement.  It just seems like every month there is something to pause and remember, something very specific and meaningful for which to praise God.  September is an extra-special month for Jamie and me...two years ago on September 20, we met!  Neither of us had any idea how that day would change the course of our future forever.  One year ago, yesterday (September 7), Jamie finished his very last day of chemo and said a firm goodbye to cancer.  Then on September 12 last year, we pledged our wedding vows and committed our lives to one another.  So much has happened in one year, and even more has happened in two!




I'm incredibly grateful, because this month I have several opportunities to speak and share our story for women's groups, concerts, and podcast recordings.  My deepest desire is to encourage others as they travel the road of their own journey, and walk in the midst of the storms and celebrations of their own story.  Last night, before I went to bed, this verse just came to mind and I've been meditating over it:

Psalm 90:12 "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

I pray that God would help me number my days, seeing that each and every day counts for not just here, but for eternity.  I pray that God would help me see my story in the light of His heavenly and everlasting perspective and to be mindful of the very temporary mist that this life is, of which the book of James speaks.

James 4:13-15 "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.'  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'"

I have to ask myself honestly, even after all I've been through and the many truths I've come to so personally realize about life and God and His story...do I approach each day this way with humble heart?  Or do I forget what I've learned and just plunge forward in the chaotic race that this life becomes?


I feel that in remembering, we honor the sacredness of our stories.  The Lord commanded the Israelites over and over in the book of Deuteronomy with the simple phrase "Do not forget". (4:9, 23; 6:12; 8:11; 25:19)

Do not forget that the Lord brought you out of Egypt.  Do not forget the Lord's commands.  Do not forget His covenant.  Do not forget His promises.  Do not forget His miracles and wonders.

I think of a beautiful hymn written by Fanny Crosby in the late 1800s, which takes pause to remember the Sovereign Hand of God throughout our journey.

All the way my Savior leads me; what have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my guide?
Heavenly peace, Divinest comfort, here by faith in Him to dwell
For I know, what e'er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me, cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial, feeds me with the living bread;
Though my weary steps may falter, and my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the rock before me, Lo! a spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me; O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised in my Father's house above;
When my spirit, clothed immortal, wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages, Jesus led me all the way.


I can testify that indeed, all the way, every single day, the Savior has led me.  This doesn't mean I always follow Him or obey or take the right step, but this does mean that He is faithful and never has left me alone on the journey.  I trust that He will continue, by His goodness and grace, to lead me all the way home.  Every winding path.  Every trial.  Every faltering step.  Every circumstance and surprise.  He is the fulfillment of every thirst of my soul and every hunger of my heart.  He is the prize and victory of life.  Sometimes I do lose sight of His constant presence and sometimes I do forget what He has done.  I have to be intentional each day to remember.  That's why I'm asking the Lord to teach me to number my days, so that I may gain a heart of wisdom.  Will you join me in that prayer for your life as well?

I'd like to close with a song that I wrote several years ago, Deeper Still.  It is taken from the promises of Psalm 90, and declares the truth of time eternal.  Remember how fleeting a day is.  Remember that time to the Lord is quite different than time is to us.  Remember all He has done in our lives.  Remember His covenant and Word.  

2 Peter 3:8 "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."

Psalm 90:1-4 "Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God...A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Little Feet, Big Adventures

I'm now in my 26th week of pregnancy, and for about 5 weeks, I have felt my little man kicking non-stop.  Yes, the 21 week mark was a huge corner-turn for me...nausea settled down and the kicks ramped up. I never realized how incredible it would be to feel him moving all day and all night!  At first I would giggle all the time.  It felt like heart flutters had fallen into my belly.  Now it's such a routine part of my day, it's almost a subconscious feeling to me.  I think it's my favorite part of carrying this child in my womb- the kicks (and punches and somersaults) are just magical.  

Week 24 Ultrasound


As our little guy kicks his mama in the belly all day long, I wonder some days where those precious feet will go, what they will do.  Will they kick a soccer ball from the time he begins to walk? (Chances are high with his Daddy and uncles and cousins all a little soccer crazy- it's definitely in the family genes- both sides!) Will they hike mountains?  Will they travel the world?  Will they walk the straight and narrow road leading to life- that I do pray!  Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." Jamie and I continually ask the Lord to put in our little man a hunger for God's word and truth as he grows up down the road- that he will mature into a man of God, following His Word and way. 

Last night at church, we were reading through Romans 10.  Verse 15 quotes from the prophet Isaiah, chapter 52 verse 7:

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'"

This spoke to me in a unique and distinct way- lying in bed last night, it hit me- I long for my son to not only be a man of God's Word and to allow that Word to illuminate every path he walks down in life, but to also carry the good news of salvation to other lives.  I want those little feet to be blessed- that every road he travels, he will carry the peace and gospel of Jesus Christ.  

So this is my prayer for those little feet today.  Sure, it would be great for him to score goals in soccer like his Daddy or hike really adventurous mountains like his uncles...but my greatest desire and prayer for my little man is that his feet would walk the road that is lit by the light of God's Word, and that he would take with him wherever he goes the glory of the gospel to share!

Week 20 Ultrasound

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Two Texts & Powerful Prayers

This morning I woke up to this precious text from my dear friend, Susan:

"One year ago today our husbands began chemotherapy and Tom and I received new friends that faithfully prayed for us. We are grateful for you both. Prayed for you this morning."

My heart had a thousand feelings as I read that text.  Vivid memories flooding back to my mind of that scary, but blessed day as we embarked on the chemo adventure.  God just "happened" to place Jamie in a corner of the chemo pod next to Tom, with Susan and me by their sides, squeezing 4 of us into a spot really meant for one patient.  My pastor has said, "Coincidence is a secular term for providence".  I do believe, this was no coincidence, this was pure providence.  After Jamie and I lifted our heads from praying that morning one year ago in the chemo pod as the infusions started, the couple next to us smiled and asked, "Are you believers?"  That question led to a friendship with Tom and Susan that would help carry all four of us on this oh-so-difficult journey of chemo and the road to healing from cancer.  I'm amazed at how God works in mysterious ways.

I'm also amazed to think of all that happened in just one year.  At that point, we were just getting by, day to day, trying to make it through each moment by faith.  We were planning our wedding only 9 1/2 weeks away, but we came to an understanding that "In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)  We knew that in the physical realm, the chemo could keep us from ever having biological children, but that in the spiritual realm, with God all things are possible.  We knew that in the physical realm, Jamie would be temporarily weakened to a low state, but that in the spiritual realm, he would be raised victorious above the trial.  

These memories cause my heart to be in awe of the Living God, who faithfully is with us through it all.  The days are long, but the years are short.  This I was reminded of again before I went to bed last night, when I read a text from a new dear friend, Nicolle:

"Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the beautiful life you have entrusted to Jamie and Caitlin.  I pray you will give them wisdom beyond their years as they learn to raise this child in this world.  I specifically pray this child will have a passionate love for your Word and will constantly strive to walk in truth.  Give them patience, both with each other and their child...even in the midst of the weariness that surrounds a new baby.  Let them treasure up moments like today in their hearts, knowing that the days are long and the years are short.  In the blink of an eye, we know this new life will be making his/her own way in the world...but ultimately we pray he/she will obey and seek you.  Amen."

Yesterday, we had our 20 week ultrasound for baby.  She sent that text during the ultrasound, God's perfect timing for the prayer...Again, no coincidence.  The experience of seeing our baby so clearly on the ultrasound images was beyond incredible.  We were able to see little one in so much detail.  We didn't just see the beating heart, we saw all four chambers of the heart!  We didn't just see the legs and arms, we saw the collar bone, the femur, the tibia & spine!  Every bone, every organ in the place God ordained.  That little face with hands curled up next to those baby cheeks.  Precious tiny feet kicking- which I could feel as we saw them on the screen!  Baby was all cuddled up comfy inside of me, not really wanting to pose for pictures, but we did find out some exciting news...baby is a boy!!!!


We are just so thrilled knowing God has given us a little man to raise.  It feels even more personal now as we plan and pray for him.  In all the excitement and preparations and expectation...I want to take a moment to reflect on Nicolle's prayer.  There is some profound power in what she prayed, and I want to take it deeply to heart.

LIFE

This is truly a precious life inside of me- a miracle of God.  Every life is a miracle, and it is just so surreal that I am carrying a little human within me for these nine months.  As I watched the ultrasound yesterday and the doctor described the various organs and development of the baby, I thought, "How can anyone ever think or say that this is not a living human being, a child?  That is pure life I see on the screen!  Those kicking feet and the four chambers beating in that heart- that's not disposable tissue- that is a remarkable living being! 

WISDOM

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."  -James 1:1-6

PASSION FOR THE WORD

The only way we can teach our child to desire and seek the Word of God is if we desire and seek the Word of God on a regular basis.  I pray that God would daily renew the passion in both our hearts for His Word.  "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." -Deuteronomy 6:6-7

WALK IN THE TRUTH

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 4:4   I had this verse on my bulletin board for years, and prayed it over my sponsor children, my nieces and nephews, and other children who are special in my life.  Now I get to pray this over our own baby!

PATIENCE

All I need to say is patience is not my forte.  However, it is my husband's strength, and sometimes I think it's his middle name!  I hope he continues to model it for me, so that I can learn this fruit of the spirit and live it out in a better way!  For those "Patient Pandas" out there- I applaud you!

TREASURE UP MOMENTS

Our Lord's mother, Mary, set this example in a most beautiful way as she experienced and lived out the most marvelous miracle of the incarnation- carrying the Living Savior in her womb and birthing him in a stable in Bethlehem.  I hope to take time to be still, ponder, recall, pray, journal, reflect, and treasure up the gifts of this new season in motherhood.  "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."  -Luke 2:19

LONG DAYS, SHORT YEARS

I truly can't believe it has been a whole year since Jamie began chemo.  We both have experienced tremendous healing.  We have experienced 10 months of the extraordinary gift of marriage.  We are expecting our little one in just 4 months, and it all has flown by in a blink.  But yes, sometimes the days are long.  Like that first day of chemo, when he sat there for 5 straight hours with an IV pumping heavy doses of medicine into his veins.  Each of us has long days.  Sometimes it really does just feel like we just woke up on the wrong side of the bed- especially on Mondays.  But in those long days, we can find blessings if we look for them, and we can offer grace to those we encounter if we are willing.  I'm so glad on that long day one year ago, Tom and Susan asked "Are you believers?"  I can't imagine had we journeyed through those 9 weeks without our dear friends by our side the whole way.  

OBEY THE HEAVENLY FATHER

I believe with all my heart that our Father in Heaven longs to bless us, His children.  However, we so often stray from His will and His way.  He is a good God and a just God.  He is Holy.  "But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people.  And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you." -Jeremiah 7:23 Are we listening to His voice?  Are we walking according to His will?  I can be stubborn.  We all can- it's called human nature.  It's also called sin and selfishness.  But I am learning that when I truly submit to my Father, that is when it goes well with me.  When Christ is my one Vision and my Ruler of all, that is when it is well with my soul.  

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Desert Rocks


His name was Walter, and he was painted with old-fashioned cartoons.  He would be our ride for the next week and a half.  It was a hot day in the desert, and we were off on an adventure.  We met up with the three RVs- one had a flat tire within an hour or two of the start.  Walmart was the first necessary stop after the fixed tire episode, and 15 of us (16 counting baby inside me) made a grand entrance with our matching blue t-shirts and exuberant energy, ready to kick off this trip!


It was called the "Great Western Loop" and my family had been planning it for years, in particular my  middle brother who is always looking for an adventure for us all to share.  We had to postpone it last summer due to my steady, but slow recovery, not realizing that Jamie would be going through chemo and recovering as well!  Yes, I am so very glad we didn't attempt this nail-biting, cliff-walking trip when the two of us were hobbling around and I was still one very dizzy girl!


I remember lying in my recovery bed in Santa Monica, in February of 2015, listening to Bethel worship music at night ever so faintly out of my right ear. With my iPod across the room as a gentle soothing comfort, my head was throbbing, no sound able to penetrate my left ear except the sounds of constant ringing pulsing.  I remember dreaming of going to the desert on this trip one day in the future and being able to climb on rocks and walk and run again.  I remember imagining being able to hold my head up once again and be able to see clearly and even hear once again.  I remember these visions at night that brought me hope in my darkest, loneliest place, when all I felt was physical pain covering me.  Those visions and dreams I had set aside for a year and a half while life took us by surprise after surprise, ups and downs, challenges and blessings.  Cancer. Engagement. Chemo. Wedding. Healing. Baby. Here I am, home after our western trip and I realize the vision came to a reality, and God was faithful.


It makes me think of the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, when God answers him so very directly:

"For the vision vision is yet for the appointed [future] time.
It hurries toward the goal [of fulfillment]; it will not fail.
Even though it delays, wait [patiently] for it,
Because it will certainly come; it will not delay."
(Habakkuk 2:3)


Our Western adventure was a time of exploring creation, bonding with family, experiencing campground dirt and desert sun.  It was one breath-taking national park after another...We walked the Narrows at Zion, saw the intense pink sun setting over the land and peeking through massive rocks while exploring Arches, saw the sunrise on the magical looking "hoodoos" of Bryce Canyon, and so much more.  We truly witnessed wonder after wonder, and our hearts were stirred to worship the Living God.  



A few weeks ago, before our trip, our pastor had a sermon on the first chapter of Romans, and he spoke about the inverted order of our day, which is so similar to that of the time of Rome.  God designed the world and He is first and foremost above all else.  It's pretty simple: Creator first, humanity second, and the rest of glorious creation third.  However, it has been twisted time and again, generation after generation.  Unfortunately, creation seems to take first place in our culture's mind, then humanity is expected to serve and worship creation, then if we acknowledge God, we put him way down in the lowest of third place- some far-off distant Being whom we don't really know personally.  The truth is, mankind was made to give glory to God.  Creation was made to reflect His majesty!  He designed it so that we, human beings, would take care of creation and rule over it.  We are not to worship the creation, but look at what He has made and allow it to inspire us to worship the Maker!  In Colossians, the Apostle Paul clearly speaks of the preeminence of Christ Jesus.


"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--
all things were created through Him and for Him.
And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
(Colossians 1:15)


In our culture, we try so hard to preserve the incredible rocks and clay and vast array of marvelous creatures.  This is all very good, because we were appointed to take care over God's creation.  I love nature and ever since I was a little girl, spending time outside is where my heart comes most fully alive.  The issue is when geological formations and endangered species are held in such esteem, they seem to rule over man and God.  (I cannot help but be reminded that human beings are quite endangered these days- the human womb the most dangerous of all places with one third of my generation being massacred before their birth).  Well, Jesus had another point of view.  During His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Pharisees were telling him point-blank to scold his disciples and the crowd for worshipping Him and declaring aloud His praise.  

"Jesus replied, 'I tell you, if these [people] keep silent, the stones will cry out [in praise]!'"
(Luke 19:40)


There we have it- if we as people do not declare the worship and glory of our Lord, the very stones and rocks of the earth will cry out His praise!  Nothing can silence the worship of the King!  I've thought long and hard about what to write in this blog, because I beheld so many incredible sights on our adventure and soaked in so much magnificent beauty.  Whether peering out from Walter's window or hiking somewhat treacherous switchbacks, holding a niece or nephews little hand (and so thankful for my improved vision and balance that allowed me to do just that!), it all pointed to one thing in my mind:  Our God is beyond fathom in His glory and wonder.  His majesty is stunning and this world is filled with grand sights and awe-inspiring places.  He is a God who keeps His Word and is faithful.  He is the Creator.  He is the Healer.  He is the Redeemer.  He is not to be compared.  


"Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; Shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it!
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb:
'I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself...
Who says to the deep, 'be dry; I will dry up your rivers'"
(Isaiah 44:23-27)


"A voice of one calling: 'In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; 
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low...
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all the people will see it together...

'All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers to he field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the Word of our God endures forever.'

You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain...
lift up your voice with a shout...
'Here is your God!' See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power...
"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?

Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor?
Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten Him, and who taught Him the right way?...
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket...
He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust...
With whom, then, will you compare God?  To what image will you liken Him?

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy and spread them out like a tent to live in."
(Isaiah 40)




Friday, June 10, 2016

Heartbeat and Heaven's Song

Today we heard the sound of our baby's heartbeat for the second time.  I'm not sure if there could be a more beautiful sound in the world.  This baby we haven't met yet, hiding safely inside my womb, the precious little heart beating rapidly, full of life... Carrying this life is such an honor and joy for me every day.  We dream of the purposes God has in store for our child.  We pray for this little one daily.  We are in awe of God's creation of life and the way He nurtures and loves and cares for the littlest of humans.  These 15 weeks have been an extraordinary journey, and I know the next 25 weeks will be filled with excitement, expectation, and not to mention exhaustion!  We are told by countless parents, "Get ready- you'll never sleep again! Or at least for the next few years!" I'm trying to stock up on that sleep now!


I remember just 16 months ago laying in my recovery bed in Santa Monica, California, completely deaf in my left ear.  I remember asking God in the stillness and agonizing pain of the night to be able to hear again one day.  I didn't know what His answer would be, but I had belief.  I had hope.  I knew my loving Heavenly Father could hear me.  I imagined hearing in my left ear the birds singing in the morning.  I imagined hearing in my left ear my future baby someday crying.  I imagined hearing in my left ear Jamie telling me that he loves me.  Little did I realize I would be blessed so soon with a little baby, and I failed to imagine during those nights the incredible blessing of hearing the heartbeat of that baby!  Oh what a glorious gift I've been given.  Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump...interrupted only by the sound of movements and kicks from baby.


Close your eyes today and take a moment to hear the music around you. Hug the one you love and listen to their heartbeat.  Listen to a child's laughter as they play.  Listen to the birds singing summer tunes.  Listen to the voices of the people in your office- really listen to them.  Listen to the rhythms of the traffic and the washing machine and the copy machine.  One of my favorite movies that highlights the gift of life and the simultaneous gift of music is August Rush.  The little boy says in it, "Listen. Can you hear it? The music. I can hear it everywhere. In the wind...in the air...in the light. It's all around us. All you have to do is open yourself up. All you have to do...is listen." God has blessed us with the gift of sound, and it's not just in the songs on the radio, but the music is truly everywhere.  Today I heard the song of God in my little baby's heartbeat.  And when all is still and really silent, I even hear it in the tinnitus in my ear, a ringing reminder of the miracle story He's brought my family and me through this past year.


"Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, praise His name;
proclaim His salvation day after day...
Splendor a majesty are before Him;
strength and glory are in His sanctuary...
Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness;
tremble before Him, all the earth...
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for He comes..."
PSALM 96


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My Baby's First Mother's Day!


That's right...you read the title of this blog correctly!  This Mother's Day I am carrying a precious little miracle inside my womb.  I remember last spring, when Jamie faced cancer treatment, and we were thrown warnings at a rapid pace by doctor after doctor over several weeks that likely we would not be able to have biological children.  This was before we were even engaged, mind you (though Jamie secretly already had the ring!)  I remember sitting on his couch with him, reading through the papers, doing research online, with tears in our eyes, and Jamie just looked at me and said, "We need to pray.  God has a plan for our future family.  Let's dedicate our children to Him, whether biological, adopted, or whatever God has planned."  So we did pray together that day, and we laid all our worries, all the messages from the world, all the questions we had before the throne of God.  Then we just kept walking through our journey of chemo, wedding, and marriage without looking back, with peace in our hearts that no matter what, God had a plan. 

 

Little did we imagine that 6 months into marriage we would be blessed with a tiny life inside me!  Doctors told us that the first two years of marriage...having children was an impossibility.  And the years after that would be questionable.  Well, God is the God of the impossible!!  His Word tells us time and time again that the Lord can do anything, and all things are possible with God, through faith.  


"But Jesus looked at them and said,
'With man this is impossible,
but with God all things are possible."
(Matthew 19:26)  

"For nothing will be impossible with God."
(Luke 1:37) 

"And Jesus said to him, 'If you can!
All things are possible for the one who believes."
(Mark 9:23) 

"But he said, 'What is impossible with man is possible with God.'"
(Luke 18:27)


This baby is such a phenomenal surprise gift from the Lord.  He didn't need to bless us with this child.  We decided that no matter what God chose for us, we would be willing and grateful for His plan for our family.  It was not an easy moment that day when we prayed together, but it was an incredibly beautiful moment, because our faith was united and we surrendered this thing so dear to our hearts to Jesus.  We knew He absolutely could give us biological children someday, but we just didn't know if that would be in the Lord's plans for us.  Our Heavenly Father knows what is best, and His love for His children is beyond what we can imagine.  Jamie and I are two people who have invested much of our hearts and lives into children and ministries that serve children, and we knew that no matter what, children would be a part of our lives.  We love adoption, because it is such a picture of how each of us is adopted into the family of God.  We have talked about the possibility of adopting since our dating days (before we ever knew about the cancer hurdle)- if that were something the Lord would lead us to do.  We believe that children are a heritage and wonderful gift from the Lord, whether adopted, sponsored, fostered, mentored, or biological.  



"Whatever is good and perfect is a gift
coming down to us from God our Father,
who created all the lights in the heavens.
He never changes or casts a shifting shadow."
(James 1:17)

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD bestows grace and favor and honor;
No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly."
(Psalm 84:11)


"And we know that God causes everything 
to work together for the good of those who love God
and are called according to His purpose."
(Romans 8:28)


The previous verses all came to mind as I wrote this.  Looking back on this year's journey, we just had to keep walking by faith and not worry about tomorrow.  We had to trust that our Sovereign God is good, no matter what.  We had to believe in His plan, not our own plans.  We had to wait with patience and faith daily, in prayer.  Now we are overcome with inexplicable joy over the amazing gift God has given us, and we cannot wait to meet our little baby, who is due between the Thanksgiving holiday and Advent season this year! 



Carrying this child in my womb has made my heart more sensitive to others' stories... I think of women and men, mothers and fathers around the world...Couples who have struggled with infertility, crying out to God for months and years, asking for a child.  Other couples waiting year after year for an adoption to go through.  Mothers and fathers who have lost children.  Parents who have experienced miscarriage.  And on Mother's Day, I especially think of those children who have lost their moms.  I remember my own precious Grannie and Grandmom who are gone from this world and are home with the Lord, and how they were such anchors for our family, such strong women with beautiful lives.  Oh how I wish they could meet our little baby.  I realize that while Jamie and I experience this incredible joy this Mother's Day, there are many who are mourning, who are pleading with the Lord, who are carrying hearts so heavy.  If it is your story I speak of, my heart goes out, and I say this prayer over you:


"The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face
to shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up
His countenance upon you
and give you peace."
(Numbers 6:24-26)

Whatever your story is right now- if you're a child missing your mother, or a mother longing for a child or mourning a loss, or just a lonely soul, I say- your story matters.  Your Heavenly Father's love for you will not abandon you or leave you.  I challenge you to hold onto the promises of God's Word which I just quoted.  These promises are TRUE and EVERLASTING.  Sometimes the hardest thing in life is experiencing pain when others are experiencing joy, and it feels like no one understands what you are going through.  Even if no one does, the Lord, our Comforter understands perfectly.



"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)  

Your tears and pain will never go unnoticed in the eyes of your Heavenly Father.  You can be sure that He is with you on the journey, picking you up and wiping your bruises and healing your scars each time you get scraped on the way. He longs to cradle you with compassion, and to show you hope on the horizon.  




"The faithful love of the LORD never ends.
His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
His mercies begin afresh each morning."
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

As Jamie and I sojourn these 9 months of expectancy, our hearts praise the Lord!  Big miracles sometimes come in little packages!