Thursday, March 28, 2013

A rare-type of birth advocate

Today, we have a guest blogger! So excited for this one! 

I had an unusual birth.  I got two for one. No, not twins and not babies. I got two births for the price of one... 
Daddy holding sweet baby boy
When I found out I was pregnant, I started off going to an OB. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my doctor, it’s just that the more I researched and read (and the more my hormones started to affect my brain cells,) the more I realized what I wanted out of my birth. In my third trimester, I decided to petition my insurance to cover care at a local birthing center where I could have an intervention-free water birth. They agreed and so I began my unexpected journey into the world of natural birth. 
I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just knew I wanted it bad enough. I would keep my eye on the prize no matter how bad the pain got. 
Then, the big day finally arrived. My labor started at a little before 8 pm on Friday night and I labored well into the morning. I finally felt the urge to push around 10 am. I pushed for a while, but I had a “cervical lip” that was working against me, making it very difficult for my son’s head to descend. He was also in the posterior position and I was experiencing terrible back labor. At that point, my midwife told me to stop pushing and breathe through the urge to push. I did this for several loooooooong and painful hours. I was fully dilated and finally allowed to start pushing again sometime that evening. After several hours of that, I started giving up. (*editor's note: gee, Cat... After almost 24 hours of labor several of which you had to resist your body's natural and very powerful urges THEN you *start* to give up? Gosh. Weak one!! ;))  It gets to the point where you don’t even remember that you’re trying to have a baby. You’re just trying to make it through the next minute. And you do. Those minutes turn into hours and your body just takes over. My mind wasn’t always in control of what my body was doing, but it did what it needed to do. Like a birthing beast. All that work, though, didn’t end in the birth I had envisioned for myself. 
The baby was just not coming. My midwife agreed that I was no longer progressing in my labor and the ambulance was called. I was told that the hospital would most likely give me an epidural and Pitocin to keep things moving, but that I could potentially have another 10 hours of labor ahead of me. I thought I was going to dieSo, these circumstances that were out of my control landed me in an ambulance with a B-line to the hospital. The ambulance couldn’t get there fast enough. Not just for me, but for the EMT’s. They were pleading with me not to have the baby in the ambulance. If I knew where my arm was at the time, I promise you that I would have punched one of them in the face for saying something so incredibly stupid. But, I digress.
After the agonizing ride to the hospital, however, it was determined upon arrival that the baby needed out right away. His heart rate was dropping and I had spiked a fever (which we later found out was due to an infection in my placenta.) The doctor tried to deliver the baby during two more pushes (the most painful because the doctor actually tried to maneuver the baby WITH HIS HANDS). My son was right there, but he just wouldn't budge. There was panic and chaos all around me as they prepped me for an emergency C-Section, but I was completely at peace. I had somehow known hours before that this was coming and I felt that we were both going to be alright. I know now that God was present in those dark moments and He gave me peace in a situation that would have normally sent me into a panic for sure. Fine by me at that point, anyway! I just wanted him out. All I could think about was making the pain stop. And then… it did. Oh, Sweet Jesus, it did. A little [BIG] needle called a Spinal. I didn’t even feel it go in, but all the sudden I was numb from the belly down. That was the sweetest relief I’ve ever felt and you better believe I was thanking Jesus for that little modern miracle.
So, here's where the rubber meets the road.
Cat and Judah in the NICU
Because of the C-Section, I didn’t get to have a rush of Oxytocin (the love hormone that is released after a woman gives birth without medical intervention.) when I met my son, I was laying on an operating table, not sure if I was right side up or upside down. I remember gathering up the strength to be excited to finally meet him. I was happy to see that he was ok and hear his cry as he took his first breath, but truth be told, I was concerned about the vomit that was burning my throat due to all the tugging they were doing on my abdomen. I remember thinking, “I went through all that and now I might die from choking on my own vomit.” Yes, irrational, I know. But I’m telling you, I had no functioning brain left. None. Meeting my son was not the emotional, joyful rush I was anticipating it to be for so many weeks and I remember feeling guilty about that.
And that's where it started. The guilt. 
I had read and watched all these things about what a birth should be. And maybe it is supposed to be like dying a painful death and then opening your eyes to the glories of heaven, but it wasn’t for me. I was just thankful to Jesus he was ok. And I was EXHAUSTED. So incredibly exhausted. 
I thought "That's it. This is going to be the anti-climactic end to my birth journey… How disappointing." 
It was a bond with my son formed in a way that I was not expecting. You see, I didn’t get to hold my son when he was born. I didn’t even get to kiss him because I was too busy puking! Then, my son was taken to the NICU because of his elevated white blood cell count due to the infection that was in my body and I was told I wouldn’t even get to see him for 24 hours because of my fever. So, there went my chance at forming a special bond with him. Everything I had worked so hard for… I had played the moment in my head over and over again… That moment when I would deliver my son with my own two hands and pull him to my chest with a rush of love. None of that happened.
However, God blessed me in a way I was not expecting. 
The next day I felt like I had been hit by a bus. I was in an incredible amount of pain and still exhausted out of my mind. I had spent the evening dozing in and out of consciousness, waking to panic attacks in between. I cried and cried and cried. I didn’t know where I was or what had happened. I didn’t know what day it was or when any of what happened occurred. In fact, I’m pretty sure there were moments I completely forgot that I had a newborn baby. The baby that I had been waiting for for months was in another wing of the hospital. I kept asking for people to tell me what happened. I really thought I had lost my mind. It wasn’t supposed to go this way in my head. I was supposed to have my baby, in the water, and then four hours later walk out of the birth center with my little bundle of joy in tow. As reality set in, it was the worst I’d ever felt physically (aside from actually being in labor) and mentally. That was until they wheeled me across the hospital to the NICU to nurse my son.
The only time during that first week while my son and I were in the hospital that I did not feel any pain was when I was with him. If I was touching him, I was completely pain free. I felt like I could get up and run through the hospital (mind you, I had just had major abdominal surgery and my toes were so swollen, they looked like Jimmy Dean sausage links!) When I was nursing him or holding him in my arms, I felt like I could “tune” into him. That’s the only way I can explain it. I felt like Judah and I were one person. I could feel what he was thinking and what he was needing. It was incredible. I had never heard of anyone experiencing that after a C-Section and I knew it was a special gift from God. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that time just so I can feel that oneness with my son again. However, that kind of experience was meant for a special time and place in both of our lives. I know that he will not remember it, but I will never forget it as long as I live. A brief moment in time that was so beautiful, so powerful, and so spiritual. They were the hardest days of my life, but they were also some of the most wonderful. It made my incredibly crazy and dramatic birth journey worth it. It was a gift that my broken spirit needed and God provided. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Cat feeling energized while nursing Judah! :)
If you’re still reading, I promise you that I’m not here to tell you that I think every woman should try for a natural birth. I used to think "those people" were nuts. 
Then I became one of them. 
The older I get, the more I realize that’s how life usually goes. I’m also not here to tell you to flee from your seemingly “crazy” desire to have a natural birth run to the nearest hospital. I did both, all in one go. For the price of my son Judah, I could have had two children. He’s totally worth it so I’m ok with that.
Here’s what I would like to do though. I’d like to clear up a misconception and bring the two sides together. You know the sides I’m talking about… Whatever side of the fence you fall on, you probably refer to your counter parts as “those people.” There are the people who are part of a group that I identified with in the beginning of my pregnancy. These are the people who cannot fathom going through childbirth anywhere but in a hospital. And if you’re like I was, ready to battle out childbirth with a powerful weapon known as the epidural. I was all about the epidural. No, I take that back. I was all about going through childbirth pain-free The needle in my spine part really freaked me out. You may be a planner and schedule your C-Section. Or perhaps you were advised to have a C-Section by your doctor for a number of reasons and felt it best to follow that advice. These are the women that are ok with all that medicine has to offer.  The thought of giving birth in a hospital doesn't produce images of scenes from a horror movie in their minds. 
 Maybe you like the idea of natural birth, but would prefer to do it in a hospital setting just in case something were to go wrong. All of these are valid because they are part of each individual’s journey to motherhood
And then, there's the other side. The people who I used to think were hippies. I mean, why would you want to go through the pain of child birth when you don’t have to? How primitive. Like having a root canal without so much as that numbing gel they give you before the shot of Novocain. Again, those were my thoughts prior to my own birth journey. I told you-- no bashing either side and I’m sticking to that. Anyway, these people would probably do anything not to have their baby in the hospital. They are more granola and believe that natural childbirth is an empowering experience. And it is. It absolutely is. Having gone through it, I can tell you that I had no idea the kind of pain I was capable of handling. I am the person who normally whines over a paper cut, and I endured twenty-six hours of the most agonizing pain I’ve ever felt in my life [times a thousand!]. I’m actually shocked I didn’t try to run outside and throw myself in front of a bus just to end the pain. 

I've said all that to say this: No matter how you choose to give birth or how you end up giving birth, it is a powerful and unique experience. Child birth is not a formula that will get you the exact same outcome every time (except the baby, hehe!). That’s what I had led myself to believe and I was wrong. I thought I had to do certain things in order to have an amazing birth experience. 
Cat holding Judah in the NICU
The fact that I didn’t even get to hold my son when he was born does not affect our relationship today like I feared that it might. When I walk in the room, he gets a smile on his face that is just oozing with drool and love for me. I don’t think it would be any different no matter what happened on that day eight months ago. In fact, I know that if everything had gone according to MY plan, I wouldn’t have had the life-changing experience that I did. It would have been life changing for sure, but it would have been different. This experience was meant to teach me something and it did. 
So no matter how you end up giving birth, know that you are strong and powerful. You have been blessed with the great responsibility of raising your child. You have been called. You have been ordained. You are the best mom for your baby because you were chosen for him/her. So, trust your instincts. Believe in yourself and do not try to measure another woman’s birth journey by your own. Each journey is unique. Each is powerful. Each is special. Each is a gift. And we’re all just doing the best we can.
That is, afterall, the outcome for us all no matter what birthing path we choose. Sometimes we may end up going down a path that we didn’t choose, but we still end up with the same outcome… the big picture--
A healthy baby and mama. 

Catherine is a mother to one beautiful, happy, silly, bouncy, miraculous, heaven-sent little boy. He was bo
orn 8 (almost 9) months ago and has taken her world by storm. "I try to be a conscious parent, but if it stresses me out, then I just do my best. I cloth diaper because I don’t mind poop or laundry, but I buy baby food because I don’t like to cook. I think I’m a pretty average wife and mom who has been blessed with an extraordinary life."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Married First: Eye Candy

Last Week's Challenge
Write out a list of 5 ways that you can be intentional about serving, honoring, respecting and loving your husband. Then, pick one and do it this week!

Here's my list of five things (as promised).  I don't know about you, but for whatever reason, this list was not as easy to make as I would've expected.  Looks like I'm rusty in preferring my husband. Not. Cool. 
  1. Ask about the business he's investing in and get involved!
  2. Stop waiting for him to make the effort for a date. He's busy Nicole, and sometimes, he wants to be romanced too. Make a date-night in sometime this week 
  3. Give him a back massage (my husband *loves* this. It's his love language)
  4. Write him a note that tells him how much you respect him
  5. Don't nag about the thing you want to nag about (I won't be sharing details because I don't want to expose anyone negatively)
I actually attempted to do a little bit of them all this week... Let me share about my efforts. 

I asked about the business he/we are involved and invested in, but... [*you guessed it*!] the kids were having a hay-day and we got distracted.  Then, after bedtime we were both tired and not feeling so hot... I have a date-night in planned but I haven't executed it yet. He's been working a lot and we've been recovering from colds. (I'm going to skip three-- because that's where it's at this week, so we'll talk about it in a bit).  Aaliya and I spent time making Daddy cards yesterday that show him how much we love him.  He got them late last night (the household was sleeping) but I hope it brought a smile to his face.  And boo-yah, would you believe I didn't nag this week! Well, except for a text earlier today that told him I was trying NOT to nag, BUT... Never a good idea.  And then, my moment of boo-yahness (furreal).

I *totally* gave him a back massage. This one's worth expanding on. [and the segway into next week's challenge]. 

One of the pitfalls we as mommies tend to fall into is the "exhausted" bit after the wee-ones go down to sleep.  Now, don't get me wrong. I completely get that caring for children full time (or going to work, to then manage a home and caring for children and serving our husbands) is totally exhausting.  Trust me, I do. But God has given us grace for today and that includes serving our husbands as help-meets in whatever way is needed. So... it is absolutely important that as wives and mommies, take care of ourselves to ensure we can serve to the fullest of our capabilities.  

What does this mean?

How about eating a balanced diet so our bodies can produce the energy it needs to cope with day-to-day stress?
How about exercise? 
How about getting out of our pajamas and making sure we look presentable and adorable for when our hubbies get home (Eye candy ladies! Eye candy!)
How about resting?  Letting go of the housework for a little bit and really resting so that we can focus our efforts on what's important.

Just some thoughts. Start taking care of yourself Mommy.  That way, you can serve your man the right way. :) 

This Week's Challenge 
Make an effort to get out of your pajamas every day and look adorable for your hubby everyday. If you go to work, instead of climbing into pajamas when you get home-- change into a comfy dress or skirt that also makes you look *extra* cute. Men are created visual... so, let's meet them there. :) 


Monday, March 25, 2013

changing our nation... one neighborhood at a time

You may call me Africa.

Or at least, you could have called me Africa. During the time I wasn't married.  I live, breathed, ate Africa.  I spent countless amounts of hours pleading with the Lord on behalf of that beautiful continent. I begged God to break in and to send me as a missionary overseas. I was missionary waiting for my call.

Fast forward five years.  I am in the United States, while my husband works a 9-5 living a dangerously stereotypical outward lifestyle.  Some think I sold out (yepp, I know who you are) and gave it up, others applaud my bravery of choosing to stay home instead.  Truth? I am a missionary who has received her call.  Not to say this call will be forever, but in this season of life-- I have been given a mandate.  I am a local missionary. Yes. Those exist.  And let me tell you they are just as legitimate as those who go overseas to share the Gospel.

Let me explain...

Husband and I began looking into a non-profit organization some four/five months ago.  We were intrigued but without a full burden or call to it (or so we thought).  We applied, followed the process, slowly learning about the mission and its purpose.  We were accepted and now we're in.  Here's the thing... Somewhere along the line, and I wish I could tell you the exact moment, God broke into our routine and our comfort and placed a burden for this nation, for this state, for this city, and even more personally... for our community upon our hearts.  So much so, that we have said yes in the simplest, most extravagant way to His desires for them.

Our family is a family of missionaries.  We are still fumbling our way through this process.  We are still figuring out what it looks like to be a family of missionaries and to give up our spare time for this community and this city and lay it at the feet of Jesus and for the lost.  And we are still learning how to practically serve and meet the needs of our neighbors and share the Gospel boldly and full of love.  We are still learning.  We fail daily and we forget sometimes, but God has called, and we have said yes.

[speaking of Christians in other nations during the rise of the missions movement in late 1800's early 1900's.]
"They [Christians] labored to bring an understanding of Scripture and glory to God, who had changed their own lives and nations during the many waves of revival."

That. That is my mission statement here. And Mommy friend, it should be yours.  I want to challenge you, Mommy, to look around your community and ask Jesus to show you how He feels about it.  Ask Him to show you His heart for each of your neighbors (yes, even the one with the annoying dog and the one who leaves their trash out for way longer than is kosher).  And then, I dare you to start living missionally to your neighborhood.  Why do you have to be commissioned overseas to do the work of a missionary? Why do you have to be "in-full-time-ministry" to minister the Gospel? Aren't we Moms already full time ministers?  Do we not minister to the needs of our children and our husbands, and sometimes even to the needs of the  Church by bringing dinner to a new mom or bringing a dish to the potluck?  What if we took our efforts outside of the Church and focused on our neighborhoods?  What would our nation look like in a six months, in a year or two if we began to minister to our neighbors and their families, if we stepped outside of ourselves for the sake of the Gospel?  It takes time.  It takes effort, but is it not effort well-spent if it adds sons to the Father's Kingdom?  Remember, He who wins souls is wise; and I'm pretty sure, he is also a friend of the Bridegroom (Jesus!).  Live missionally.  America needs Jesus! We don't need to be overseas to be missionaries (yes, REAL missionaries who suffer for the sake of the Gospel).  This nation is infoltrated with darkness, and humanism, self-love and idolatry.  These same sins that have overtaken other nations are here, in our land.  And we can should minister light brighter even than having been sent overseas.  You don't need to be in a special organization or group-- you can choose to ask Jesus for the burden and by the power of the Holy Spirit walk it out yourself.

Live Missionally. Let's change this nation.
Who knows... it can start with the stay-at-home "nobody" moms. :) 


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Introduction to the Married First Series

I realized today I haven't posted much up on marriage recently.

Hmm. Odd.

And then the Holy Spirit gently nudges me. Hmm.

There are incredibly difficult, trying and busy seasons in life.  Mothering three littles, including one toddler and a very very active almost toddler definitely count as one of those busy seasons. Add full time work for Daddy, a business that needs cultivating, a community ministry we have committed to, and it seems we lose track of doing anything else except the task of molding those babies and meeting our committments.

And this is good and right.

I realized (also today) that I have been caught up in the business of mothering and not enough wivering (again, it's my word. Not in the English dictionary, nevertheless I shall use it [enter copyright here]).  My heart's posture is set on training my children, but somewhere along the line I forgot I was married first, and then I had children. I forgot that Jesus has established order in my home and in that God-given order, my husband comes before my children.

And this is good and right.

I give kudos to an old friend of mine Alexia who is insanely good at this. She always reminds me that I was married first and then I had children. You can tell from her lifestyle she makes it a priority to be a wife first, a mother second, and a woman third.  So today I remember that my ministry is first to the Lord, then to my husband and out of the overflow of those two, unto my children.

This post isn't filled with deep truth or mighty revelation.  It's just a reality check.  I'm openly admitting to fault, just in case you ever thought about considering about maybe thinking of me as a Supermom (which I am not... just in case you didn't know), and vowing I will change it.

I am going to actively minister to my husband on a day to day basis... Intentionally. And I'm gonna challenge you to do the same.

Every week, I will post up a new challenge on loving, serving and honoring our husbands. It's all about being intentional with them. And respecting them. And loving them.

Leave a comment and let me know if you'll be joining in! I'd love to hear from you!

This Week's Challenge
Write out a list of 5 ways that you can be intentional about serving, honoring, respecting and loving your husband. Then, pick one and do it this week!

I'll be sharing my list next week. So, stay tuned! :)


Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: "A Cry for Justice"

"Overcome anger, reject bitterness, and trust in JESUS who will fight for you."
by Shelley Hundley
A Former Atheist

This book has completely wrecked me.

I picked up this book at our yearly One Thing Regional Conference here in Orlando. I found the book and it was one of the few I didn't already own from the product table (confessions of a book-aholic Mom, much?).  The title caught my eye and even though the by-line should have given away that this was NOT a book works-minded (as in, Jesus-- demonstrate your justice in the ministry to the poor, the widow and the orphan) but rather a book totally and completely focused on the attribute of God as the man, Justice.

Once again, this book has completely wrecked me. I just don't even know where to start.

The author of this book spends a good portion of the book sharing her testimony with the reader.  She fully writes out the Scripture that declares "... and they overcame him, by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony." (see Revelation 12:11)  Shelley Hundley has been forgiven much and therefore she loves much! I don't want to ruin it for you (because I'm telling you, you should read this book) but as a sneak peak into it, Shelley grew up in South America as a missionary with her parents meanwhile she experienced traumatic abuse and witnessed violence all around her. As a result of the trauma and abuse, she forsook everything that had to with God and Christianity. She became an atheist surrounded by depression, suicidal thoughts and etc.  After experiencing a miraculous salvation, the Lord began to deal with the trauma, anger and unforgiveness in her heart (from the abuse) by revealing the way He works His purposes through pain.

"Without pain, we would remain fascinated by one vanity after another.  Pain reveals to us the inadequacy of what we are beholding and unlocks our ache for a greater beauty to fulfill our need.  Pain and suffering, therefore, are useful not because they have redemptive or transforming power, but because of what they tear down in our lives and the One to whom they can lead us.  Pain directs us to the place where God is waiting, ready to change us.

"Somehow the places of our hearts that are blind to beauty are within the reach of pain."

Out of that understanding, she begins to know God as Judge and receives immense healing and a great measure of faith through it all!

"One day during a time of prayer, the Lord whispered a phrase to me that opened up an entirely new revelation of Jesus. I had no idea at the time, but the truth that the Holy Spirit was about to reveal would bring me more healing than I could have possibly imagined... The words were, 'You need a judge.' "

"I am convinced that this generation needs more faith for personal holiness than for the miraculous demonstration of God's power."

"Without recognizing Jesus Christ as the ultimate Judge, the comfort we offer those withering under the weight of a wicked and perverse world is reduced to offering them a sympathetic pat on the back and the shallow encouragement, 'You will make it through somehow.' "

"When we truly learn to look for the 'day of His appearing,' we will find our hearts steadied in suffering and sharpened in holiness.

And on, and on, and on it goes. 

At the end of the book, Shelley leaves us with an encounter she had with the Lord.  She, through her testimony, is beckoning us, the readers, to lay it all down and become the friend of Jesus. To sit with Him as a friend and weep and partner with Him through every execution of His heart. I think this bit wrecked me most. I want to be found a faithful friend of the Bridegroom!

"I don't want my heart to be too cold or my mind too cluttered that He can't share His heart with me."

"You think your brokeness can compete with the Son of God's prayers that you would be with Him where He is? Your weakness is nothing in comparison to the desire that burns in God's heart to be known."

Go get this book and get to know God as Judge. It will transform you.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Motherhood is a gift

I was reading my latest read (HIGHLY recommend it) this afternoon during nap time. I'd decided the dishes and laundry could wait. I was craving the eternal and I wanted to just sit at His feet.

"Those who desire to be great must become servants. (see Matt 20:20-28)" she wrote.

And as if my heart wasn't getting wrecked enough (I have so much revelation making my heart soar right now that I can hardly contain myself), it hit me like a ton of bricks. This phrase wasn't even in the 10 mile radius of the main point of the chapter, it was just a gentle reminder thrown in there that awakened me to a beautiful perspective on my mundane life of diapers and dishes and everything else I disdain.

Motherhood is a gift from Jesus to work inside of us eternal greatness and rewards.  Jesus has given me this very daunting, very difficult and sometimes very discouraging role of motherhood as a means to draw me nearer to Himself.  Jesus Christ wants this mama to spend eternity with Him... in very close proximity.  He desires to reward me forever with good and perfect gifts that I can in turn cast at His feet forever.  So, He gives me Grace, Liberty and Justice.  He whispers of the possibility for more, and He tells me that for my heart to be fulfilled in being great, I must become a servant of them and the man He has chosen to yoke me with forever.

I don't have to fear that I'm not going to change the world or do something mighty.  I don't have to worry that I'm losing myself in these kiddos.  I don't have to be concerned that no one sees me anymore because I'm knee-deep in laundry and hiding out in the nursing room with Justice, or that no one thinks I'm oober spiritual because I'm serving my family at home instead of somewhere else*. I know that Jesus delights in this secret, hidden, broken service I offer to my family. He gifted it to me for the purpose of eternity.

Motherhood is a natural escort to servanthood.  We cannot be good or even average mothers without an element of service for our children.  Becoming a mother naturally demonstrates the face of Jesus' service.  He nurtures and cleanses us.  He speaks tender mercies and practices discipline for our disobedience.  He feeds us the eternal bread of life and He comforts us when our fears seem greater than we can carry.  He serves us through love as we serve our babes through love.  Our way is incredibly broken, His is significantly higher and most definitely perfect.  Nevertheless He has gifted us with motherhood as a means to draw out His virtues and grace in our hearts so that we may be His friends and close to Him forever!

So today, I want to challenge you Mama.  When you are changing your toddler's poopy diapers again and are flooded in the laundry list your husband left you with (no pun intended-- though add the pile of laundry you have yet to fold and tuck away), remember that Jesus is using this to build meekness and lowliness through service in you.  And He's doing it, not because He's a cruel God who doesn't care, but because He's a good, loving God who wants you near Him, forever!


*Please note: I believe every family is different, so I am not saying that my story will mesh with yours in that staying home is the only way.  I am saying that this is my calling and that regardless of how you serve your family, the point is, that we serve.

Friday, March 8, 2013

good and best, trials and tribulations

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.
--Psalms 23:4a

I have been meditating and chewing on Psalm 23 for almost a week. Wait, maybe a little over a week. Oh, I don't know, seems like a very very long time.

I was sitting in the car on the way home and began to spontaneously sing that verse over and over again. From there, God began to bring to remembrance other Scriptures that have the same connotation and meaning.  He began to remind me that though a thousand fall at my right side and 10,000 at my left, God is always with me.  He began to confirm and remind my heart that nothing can separate me from His love.  I'm telling you, that Scripture became alive in my heart and I began to believe it.

Then I stopped, and wondered. Umm, God, why are You telling me this now?  Actually, I began to really worry about what He was preparing my heart for when that song by ____ came on the radio. "What if Your blessings come through raindrops..."

I saw a pattern and stopped to wonder. That "umm God" thought came back to my mind and to my heart and I momentarily forgot the truths that had been so alive in my heart a minute or two ago.  But then, I paused again and refocused. 

I started thinking about the circumstances in my life.  I am not currently under persecution and I have been blessed beyond measure.  Christ has been so faithful to my wretched, undeserving heart. I have much to be thankful for and zero to gripe about. I have never lived under such a light yoke (Matthew 11:30) and such dependency on Jesus Christ for sustenance. Indeed, He has been good to me.  Even then, I had been telling the Lord earlier how sick my heart was.  Scripture says "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" and there's been just one thing my heart's been hoping for a very, very long time. And truthfully my heart can become sick over it.  It is not a bad thing, it is a very good thing.  It is a God thing, but it may not be the best (God) thing right now.

Nevertheless, I have seen that in this pattern of waiting for Him, I have sought Him harder and longer, and deeper and stronger than probably anything else could do.  See, I have learned that Jesus knows me best and that He allows the circumstances surrounding my life for the sake of His purpose. He knows what pain will draw us to Him and which will draw us away from Him and He allows it to draw us near (see Hosea 2:6,14). I am seeing my heart's desire as good, He is seeing my heart's sickness in waiting best. Why?  Because it draws me to Him.  My heart longs for Him because of the blatant sickness of my heart over this matter. And deep down inside, my heart knows only He can satisfy (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).

I don't know the entirety of what God was telling me tonight on the car ride home. I don't know if He was referring to the very thing that afflicts my heart, or whether He is telling me I will be walking in the valley of the shadow of death soon, but I know that no matter what, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me besides quiet waters, He restores my soul; He guides me in the path of righteousness. I know His staff and His rod (discipline) comfort me. And yeah, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for my God, my rock, my refuge and my Christ is with me.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

The "dinner" table

Yesterday was clearly a rough day (in the afternoon).

I did something I never do.

I ate my (quite yummy actually!) dinner on the couch, in front of the television while my sweet girl ate (or rather, didn't) at the table. By herself.  My amazing husband followed my lead (God, forgive me!) and sat in front of the computer.

It was so not a blog-worthy night of success.

While I was unloading yesterday's dishes from the dishwasher today, I began to think about last night's lack of dinner conversation, and I was ashamed.

Recently, I have vowed to sit with my children for every single meal. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner (and a few snuggled before bed).  Since being intentional about that, something interesting has taken place.  I have to sweep and mop at night after the kiddos go to bed (because three full meals and two snacks is a lot of time at the table) but my daughter is *actually* eating (picky picky eater!).  I get less time to sit in front of the TV for "me" time, but her behavior is so much better.  My house is a little less perfect, but I can say that I know my daughter. 

There's something about sitting and eating and talking and sharing life around the table that connects us to our children in a way few other things can.  How many of Jesus' teachings were taught around a table (figuratively speaking, rather, at a meal)?  How many great conversations can be had around the dinner table?

The dinner table has been a subject of focus for many people for a long time, and praise Jesus, that is a perfect place to start.  But I want to encourage and challenge you Mamas to sit with your children at the table for every meal.  Not just to feed them.  Not in a hustle and bustle trying to get them fed while your food gets cold. Pre-plan, make something more than simple and then sit, eat with them, alongside them and talk.  Talk about Jesus.  Talk about the weather, the day's plans.  Talk about the food, their favorite color. Whatever comes to your heart, just talk.  It will seem like a lot of time sitting at the table, but it is time well spent. 

How can you spend more time with your littles around the table daily?


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Why I think I'm really an introvert

I think to anyone who has spent their fare share of time with me, the thought or proposal that I am actually an introvert may seem about as absurd as snow in the middle of July.  I am, after all, a not so quiet, quite lively, love to entertain and have people over sorta Mama. My house has been *full* for the bulk of my married life and I don't see it emptying out anytime soon.

So, why the introvertedness? (I think I just made up a new word!)

Even though I am a complete people person, and totally love being surrounded by people I can serve, minister to and enjoy life with, I have come to a point in life where I have found that time alone, in the midst of silence is truly where I am recharged.

Someone once told me that being an introvert or extrovert has nothing to do with being the life of the party (as an extrovert) or a complete wallflower (as an introvert).  It has everything to do with how we find ourselves re-energized for another day/task/etc. With that definition in tow, I have decided I most certainly an introvert.

I love hosting and having my home busting with life, laughter and a lot of noise.

But I love even more the stillness that comes after the last guest leaves our home and I am once again in the solitude and peace our home is founded on.

I love being with closest friends, arranging play dates for my wee ones and running around like a madwoman while I play duck, duck goose or Freeze Tag with the kids around the neighborhood.

But I love even more the silence found after the kids have gone to sleep, and there is nothing speaking besides the candle I light daily to remind me that we are the light of the world.

I love snuggling and watching movies.  And I love jumping up and down with musical instruments in tow during our praise and devotional time.

But my favorite time of the day is when I get to shut everything off and be still.

I love Church and fellow-shipping with the saints.

But I love even more spending quiet, focused time with my Savior.  I find I connect more with Him there than I do in large gatherings.

I never thought my soul would delight in stillness, silence and solitude.  But is there friend where I have learned I find my rest and peace.  It is in the stillness and solitude I have truly met my Bridegroom King and can deeply connect with His goodness.

That being said, it is quite obvious I am introvert.
Loud. Crazy. Opinionated. Always making you come over Nicole is actually an introvert.
HA! Who woulda thunk?