Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jesus came to save sinners

Ben's work schedule has been a bit out of the ordinary lately (can I just say crazy??). He's been working late nights and the next day early mornings. Or he'll work 7 days in a row. But a few days ago he had an early shift and the next day off. What a blessing. His family decided to plan a get-together since we haven't all been together in a few months.

It was a good time. We sat and ate and visited, told funny stories and discussed politics and current events. We oo-ed and awe-ed over the newest addition to the family; a brand new 3 week old, 7 pound baby girl. Isaac ran around his great-uncle's huge backyard and petted and growled at the "bear" (his big, elderly rotweiller who to Isaac may as well be a bear!). And Isaac got to stay up well past his bedtime.

He and I left at 8:15 so he could get to bed at a semi-decent hour. Ben stayed behind to spend more time with his brother who hadn't yet arrived. I put Isaac in his pajamas and Ben put him in his carseat. He was one exhausted little boy. On the way home I turned on a children's CD that has been in my CD player since we had lived in Texas (let's say 15 months or so). I had almost forgotten it was even there.

The first song is called Jesus Came to Save Sinners and the lyrics are simply this:

We are all sinners
We are sick with sin
We are separated
We are far from Him

Yes we need a Savior, and God has sent His Son

Jesus came to save, sinners like you and me
Dying on the cross to set us free
Jesus came to save, sinners like you and me
Rose from the dead, He beat sin

As I drove the two of us home that night; the dark, massive star-lit sky above us, those words made my heart full. The simplicity of those lyrics, and yet how full of truth they are, produced in me thankfulness.

I've been lacking that lately. I mean, I make it a point to thank God for daily blessings each night as I pray. But they are often shallow thanks. That night, deep down, I was thankful for Jesus. For God sending Him. For His willingness to die on the cross for me. For His victory over sin. And for the freedom that I have because of what He did.

It's funny how you have those moments where you feel the Holy Spirit pressing on your heart, piercing it in ways that don't often happen. In that moment, that night, as I drove down a wide-open road, listening to a children's song with my son dozing off in the back seat of the car, I could feel truth. And I was thankful and my heart was full.

the children's album (which I highly recommend) is called Jesus Came To Save Sinners and can be downloaded for free from The Village Church website. a list of song titles and lyrics can be found here. it's only 5 short songs but each song contains foundational truth for Christians.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

vlog: my desired influence

It's time again for The Girl Behing the Blog link up!
Today I'm linking up with Ashley and Erin to talk about influence.

Here is the prompt (although I just focused on the last one):
*Who or what has influenced the way you think and who you are or changed the way you think/are?
*How do you hope to influence people through your blog?
*Is there another area in your life where you have influence? How do you plan to use your influence in this area?


Thursday, September 20, 2012

the goal of joy

[my boys, from our hiking trip yesterday]

Joy. Ah... yes. I might be needing some of that... That has always been the goal of the fullest life - joy. [one thousand gifts. page 32]

When I sit down to write a list of goals, which I often do, because I love lists, they usually include things like:

-read that book
-get an oil change
-finish a craft/sewing project
-develop film for the month
-go on a trip
-study that book of the Bible
-eat healthier
-get out of the house more often
-try new recipes
-join a small group
-start running
-grow tomatoes
-take a photography class
-have more babies
-write a book

... you get the picture. In fact, all of those are goals I have set in the past (but not always completed).

But you know what is never on my goal list? joy.

I've never sat down, written out a list of the things I want in life, the things I desire to accomplish or obtain and written the word joy.

And I think that goes to show that I've missed it. I've missed how to actually enjoy life to its fullest. I mean, growing my own tomatoes is a pretty cool thing to accomplish, but it won't make my life complete. I can read 198239 different books this year and yet, there will still be something lacking. I could take private photography lessons, become really great at capturing life in a still shot and still be missing something.

And like Ann says in that quote above, I could really use some of that joy right now. I'm not talking happiness or contentment. I mean real, deep, joy from the Lord.

Happiness is so overrated. It's here for a moment and then it's gone. I smile because something makes me happy but the moment something sad crosses my mind, that happy moment dissipates.

Contentment is a wonderful thing to have, but it has to be learned. And it's often a gruesome process. I'm not a fan of learning to be content, although I know God thinks I need it because it's a lesson I'm always in the midst of.

But joy. Joy is something that can't be taken from you. We are able to have the full measure of Jesus' joy within us! As Ann points out in chapter 2 of one thousand gifts, it's something that is cultivated through thanksgiving. And as John says, it's something that can be complete. I don't know about you, but I want complete joy!

I didn't make a 27@27 goal list this year like I did last year for 26. 27 things just seemed like a lot of goals to come up with and then to accomplish! But I do know there is one goal that I'd like to be on my list if I had made one: joy. Now to work at that. And I think I'll start here: Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the eucharisteo - the table of thanksgiving [one thousand gifts. page 32-3].

I'm linking up with Annie and Margaret as we read through one thousand gifts.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

eat the mystery

For forty long years, God's people daily eat manna - a substance whose name literally means "What is it?" Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling... They find soul-filling in the inexplicable. They eat the mystery. [page 22, one thousand gifts]

I'm in that place. I'm in a desert (literally and figuratively). Granted it hasn't been 40 years and I can only pray it won't last nearly that long! But I'm there. It's a place where I have a choice. And if I'm being completely honest, I all too often choose the wrong one.

My flesh is constantly in the way. I want control. I want things to go my way. But deep down in my heart I do desire to eat the mystery. I thirst to fill my soul with the inexplicable: God's provisions, not my plan. God's way, not mine.

Most of it I may never understand. I don't know why He allows us to experience turmoil and heartache or why He sometimes leads us into these seasons of waiting. But I do know that in the desert, I thirst. I hunger. I long for Him. And instead of complaining about it, instead of grumbling and wishing it were another way, I am going to choose to gather that which is baffling. Because that which is baffling from the Lord, far outweighs me trying to write my own story.

Playing with bath toys in the backyard
[rain in the desert, last week]

As I read chapter one of one thousand gifts, I was reminded of how faithful God has been to me in previous seasons like this one. This is not my first time in the proverbial desert. I've been led here many times before. I've relied on Him and seen His plan change me, change my aching, grumbling, ungrateful heart. I know in my core that He's doing it again. And as much as my flesh wants to fight Him, wants to do things my own way, I will not give in. I will choose to follow His lead.

I anticipate that reading this book will help break me in places of pride and continue to guide me during this time where I'm experiencing God's work to humble me. Chapter one has already begun to. And there are still ten more to read!

I'll be linking up with Annie and Margaret as we read through one thousand gifts together. Won't you join us??

Thursday, September 6, 2012

overcoming fear and concern about labor

As I prepare for my labor with Elijah, more than anything, I've been focusing on getting right with the Lord. I've found some really awesome study materials that I'm using in the process and I'm planning to share alot of useful, tangible Bible study options and scripture on the blog to use in preparation for labor and birth. So check back for that! In the mean time, I'm working through it on my own.

Why the focus on being right with the Lord? Having my heart aligned with His?

You see, I'm not afraid for labor. I've done it before and I'm actually quite excited about it this time around. I know what the outcome is and I cannot wait to hold this little boy in my arms and feel that unbelievable and indescribable bond and love for him, like I did with Isaac.

So when I read through devotions and other materials that focus on labor challenges and fear, I'm coming at it from a different perspective than being afraid it will hurt or fearing that I won't be able to do it.

Yesterday I was reading a section about having peace. Peace about labor, birth and delivery. Peace in the midst of uncertainty. The writer says this:

"Peace is not having everything perfect. Peace is not an uneventful labor. Peace is not the absence of fear or concern. Peace is trusting God... in the middle of uncertainty while you are afraid.

The ultimate authority of God can bring peace in the midst of your labor challenges
." [source, emphasis mine]

Here's the deal: We all go into labor with different fears and/or concerns. Whether this is your first baby or your 14th. Maybe this is a first time labor and you are afraid because of how our culture portrays birth: excruciatingly painful and something to fight through. Maybe you've had complications in your previous births. Maybe you've miscarried several times and are worried about the outcome of this pregnancy. Maybe you've struggled with infertility and are finally going to have a baby, but are afraid that things can still go wrong. Maybe you have friends who have had trouble or complications and you worry those things may happen to you. There are a thousand different scenarios.

But no matter the situation, we can all rely on one thing to get us through: The ultimate authority and peace of the Lord God.

The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with strength ~ Psalm 29:11

Want to know my fear and concern for this labor?

We are planning a homebirth for Elijah. That has been the plan since the moment we started discussing having another baby. I've always had a natural, Christian, homebirth on my heart. I want to be in my own home, in my own space, where I am comfortable. I want to be able to snuggle up with my baby the moment he is born and be left alone with my family, in our own space as quickly as possible. I want to work with a Midwife instead of an OB. And I want to have a say in my birth experience: no beeping, monitoring, checking, interventioning or other -ing of any kind. (note: Isaac's birth was a hospital birth and our experience was just fine, but we've chosen something different this time).


You might be thinking that I'm afraid of what could happen with a homebirth, being away from a hospital and a doctor. Nope. Not it at all. I'm actually extremely comfortable and at peace with that portion of Elijah's birth. I know God has it under control.

My concern is the actual place of this homebirth. Right now, Ben, Isaac and I are living with my parents. It's a long story and I'll share more as the story progresses, but the simple truth of the matter is that we aren't in our own space. And that is hard for me.

And the chances of us being in our own space by the time Elijah makes his grand arrival are becoming slimmer and slimmer as time passes. My dad jokes that instead of a homebirth, we may be having a home-less birth. And that very well may be the case.

What is funny is that I'm at complete ease about a homebirth in general. I trust God with that. I've had time to pray and consider it and I have such peace about it. But this other part of it, I'm having trouble letting go. I'm struggling to trust Him in that.

So, yesterday, when I read "Peace is not the absence of fear or concern. Peace is trusting God." I stopped, prayed, highlighted and journaled. Yes Lord, I am all kinds of concerned. Lord there are a hundred things out of my control right now surrounding this birth that I just want control of! Lord, I don't want to worry about those things because that will ultimately affect my labor. Lord show me and teach me to trust you with this. It's Your ultimate authority that I need to rely in. I want to rely in it. I want to trust you completely. Amen.

As I prepare for labor, I'm practicing my relaxation. I'm eating the right foods and exercising to keep my body in shape and ready. I'm reading about natural birth to keep my mind in the right place. I'm practicing labor positions and discussing and working with my husband. I'm praying for this baby's health and safe arrival. I'm making a list of what I want and don't want for Elijah when he's born. But,

I'm also getting my heart right with God.

And honestly, I don't know that there is a more important thing to do in preparing for such a huge, life-changing event.

"Judge how much you are trusting God by looking at every area of your life, not just pregnancy." [source, emphasis mine]

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. ~Deuteronomy 31:6

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

august in review and on to september

August flew by. Well, now that I look back on it I say that. But in the midst of it, it seemed to drag on, and on, and on. Though, it wasn't too bad. But I'm ready for summer to be over.

PicMonkey Collage1
[*Isaac, proud of himself for climbing up into the chair all by himself. Watching for airplanes outside of the bookstore. *Getting to meet Jen for the first time. We shared a pizookie at BJ's. *26 weeks.]

PicMonkey Collage3
[*27 weeks. *Flooding in Vegas after a ton of rain. It was nuts. (Yes, it rains and floods in the desert, especially in the summer). *Ben's birthday lunch: pozole (mexican soup)]

PicMonkey Collage4
[*One exhausted goober from walking around UNLV in the rain. *Educational reading, prepping for labor. *28 weeks]

PicMonkey Collage2
[*Ben's birthday beer at dinner: Stella. *Last day of summer at the water park. *Lots and lots of fruit]

How was your August? Ours was hot. We celebrated Ben's birthday. We spent a lot of time at the pool and water park and Isaac loved it. We ate a ton of fruit and continue to do so. My belly popped and just keeps getting bigger and bigger! And unlike any other August I've experienced in Las Vegas, we got so much rain!! It was super refreshing and it cooled the temperatures way down. This had to be the most mild summer in this town. And I couldn't be more thankful after the brutal, record-breaking summer we experienced last year in Texas!

So here's to September. I'm ready for cooler weather (in the 90's) and fall vegetables. I'm ready for football season and deciding on a Halloween costume for Isaac. I'm just ready for Summer to be done and gone and for Fall to head our way!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I love the church

When I say, "I love the church", I'm not talking about a church building. I don't mean a specific denomination. And I'm not even talking about the church that I attend.

I'm talking about the body of believers. The saints. The church!!

I am so grateful for the body. I adore my sisters in Christ. I just stinkin' love the church!!

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. ~1 Corinthians 12:27

The past several weeks have been a bit rough. We're in this place right now, this place that I feel like we're constantly finding ourselves in. This place of waiting. And let's be honest, waiting can be rough. Ok, that's not totally true. It's not that it just can be rough, it's that it is rough. I mean, raise your hand if you enjoy waiting... That's what I thought.

Right now, my family of 3 (soon to be 4) is crammed into 2 small bedrooms in my parent's house. Almost nothing we own is currently in our possession. We shoved it all into the biggest storage unit we could afford (and afford is even stretching it) and kept out only what we absolutely needed. Let's just say that things are a bit tight and a bit minimal.

And while I could not be more thankful and grateful for a roof over our heads, a place to live, and a home cooked meal every night, this is not the ideal. And it's certainly not the goal.

In the mean time, we haven't a clue when our circumstances will change. I'm hoping soon. But only God knows His timing and His place. In the mean time, it's been a rough few weeks. Like when you can just sense Satan working, trying to discourage you at every. single. turn.

But let's be clear: We made a decision to move to Las Vegas. We knew full well that it wouldn't be easy. Ben had the final word and he doesn't second-guess his decisions (And oh how I love that about him!!). I trust him whole-heartedly. He doesn't get discouraged easily. But I do. And I know that Satan is trying to get me to question my husband's decision. But I can see through his lies. And I won't believe him.

In the mean time, I love the church.

Because in these rough times...

it's being able to send a quick text message asking for prayer and getting a ton of support.

it's meeting up with a long-time online blog friend in person and enjoying each other's company (and yummy dessert) and stories as if we've been friends for years!

it's getting the chance to chat on the phone with a friend who I haven't talked to in at least a year and complaining together, encouraging each other and just having a wonderful conversation.

it's asking blog friends for prayer, who I've never met in person and knowing that they are there with me, petitioning the Lord.

it's reading the Facebook status of a friend who I never knew all that well and haven't seen in years, responding to that status and getting a response of:

I'm praying for you right now...Lord it was years before David became King of Israel after he was anointed to do so through much trials and tribulations especially from Saul, future king David had to learn the kind of King he never wanted to be but be the king God wanted him to be. God used Saul to shape David's character for his future plans. Trust Him He's doing the same for you ♥

Do you get it yet? Do you see why I love the church? the body? the saints? They are amazing!

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. ~Romans 12:15

The past few weeks have been tougher than normal. But at the same time, the past few weeks have shown me how the body works. And it's incredible to see it in action; to be apart of it; to actually be the arms and feet of Christ and to see others being those things for you.

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. ~Philemon 1:7

I think sometimes we forget how good we have it. As Christians, we are part of the body of Christ. That body goes far beyond your home, your small group and your church. It stretches across the country, across the world, and through the internet. How incredible that we have a family, most of whom we've never met, but with whom we have the most important thing in common: faith in Christ?! We know His love and His compassion. And so, we can be His love and compassion for our brothers and sisters in Him. We get that honor.

So let me encourage you: if things are hard right now, reach out to someone for prayer or encouragment. We are called to bear one another's burdens. If things are wonderful right now, encourage someone else. He has comforted us so that we can comfort others.

...the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3,4

And be thankful for the church.