Seasons

Behold, children are a gift from the Lord…

This past year has been an adjustment. Three children. One of them being a two year old, and all of them being girls. Then there’s me, another girl, with crazy “42 year old mama who just gave birth” hormones who doesn’t sleep…it’s been an adjustment. It has been super fun seeing my oldest flourish in school, conquer fears left over from the tornado, and work hard to learn baton twirling. My two year old has found her voice with an ever increasing cute vocabulary and finally lets us comfort her when she has a boo boo. (all the feels!) Our newest addition is full of smiles and nose scrunches and learning to play with her sisters has just been the BEST. Yet it has taken me a year to accept the adjustment in my day. The shifting of priorities and time and tasks that I used to do but now take three times as long or don’t happen at all.

This past year I just kept thinking “When are you going to get it together??!! When are you going to get a good routine down and have a day that runs smoothly? When are you going to consistently…do anything?” I have been beating myself up thinking about the season in my life about 3 years ago when I was in God’s Word for hours a day. Where I had a beautifully highlighted prayer journal that I kept up with and prayed through regularly. I wrote almost daily and had wonderful study time cross-referencing, looking up commentaries, and loving all I was learning about God. That time, back three years ago, I call it my sweet spot. I vividly remember being able to spend an hour outside on my deck in the beautiful weather and pray, journal, read God’s Word, and just really enjoy the fruits of all of those spiritual disciplines in place for long amounts of time. My writing flourished, my time with friends was rich in conversation and not interrupted very much. Since my third child, I found myself thinking back to those few years and shaming myself for not having those hours of study now. Longing for that space where my mind was fresh and I was able to complete thoughts, where my pen or keyboard was vigorously writing about all I was learning, and where my time with friends included pretty brunches in my home or coffee dates at an actual restaurant or play dates where minimal supervision was needed. But it was just a season.

Even though our weather seasons repeat themselves, spring, summer, fall, winter; our seasons of life don’t. They are a progression. That season three years ago is not coming back. And it shouldn’t! I am in a new season now. This is not only a season in my life here on earth, it is a season of my eternity. There is no death ahead of me! Physically maybe, but Christ conquered death for me!

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of the righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwell in you. Romans 8:10-11

Each day of this life is just a tiny, minute season of the eternity that is ahead. Even that isn’t what humbles me the most. The most humbling aspect is that this is just a season of my life but God existed before my time on earth even began. Not only that, He existed before Earth began. And to really blow my mind,  He existed before even time began. (Psalm 90:2). Yet He has designed us to experience life in seasons as Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, so I need to honor that and not wish for what was in the past or pine away for what may be in the future. He has something to teach me and grow me in each season.

This week the Lord woke me up from that dream of three years ago and reminded me that He doesn’t advise us to long for what is behind us but He tells us to press on to what lies ahead. There was a sweet spot back then but there was also sin that needed to be dealt with that He has brought me to repentance about. I don’t want to go back there if I have already come through it. I have been looking back in a rear view mirror at a piece of land I wanted to get back to. But it seemed to be getting further and further away. That is because it needs to! That land I was longing for is a land without two of my other children. It is not a place for me anymore. That destination I thought was the ideal I should be attaining (one hour of disciplined study and prayer) was what He had for me back then. It is not what He has for me now. During that season He honed in me a love of digging in, studying, writing, and communing with Him in a way that was the grace I needed for THAT season. In this season He is training me in dependence on Him. He is training me to not only love what I am learning about Him but to love HIM more. A training that wouldn’t happen if I was still back in that beautiful spot on my deck. I am learning dependence on Him in the trenches of a messy living room with loud, precious, growing girls. He is teaching me that He is giving me the grace I need in this season of fighting my flesh that manifests in an angry mouth. I will never get back to that place in my rear view mirror and I am glad! It was an amazing time of spiritual growth and learning what intimacy with the Lord means, but so is this one. My sanctification is a progression, moving forward, moving towards something that is ahead of me, not behind me (Philippians 3:12-14).

I am learning about rest, the kind that has nothing to do with sleep. I am learning to be diligent to seek Him, commune with Him, read His Word, pray to Him, without it being striving for an amount of time or the place I once was. If I strive for what was it will only result in spinning my wheels, not rest. I also am very mindful to NEVER view my children as something that has interrupted one my spiritual disciplines or any other plan I have for the day. They are my plan, they are what God has called me to do, they are part of my sanctification and I want my day to be weaved with prayer and talking to Jesus and speaking His Word with and in front of my children (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). I am learning this y’all. He shows me daily. I am so thankful for the women in my life He has given me that are in this season with me. I am also thankful for those that are a little ahead of me and remind me of how quickly it passes. I am also thankful for the young women not quite there yet who I can encourage and remind when their time comes.

The other lesson the Lord pressed on my mind was that He never leaves me. He wasn’t only present in my “sweet spot” on the deck. The Holy Spirit is in me (John 14:16-17). God’s Word is alive and active in my mind as I have ingested it (Hebrews 4:12). What a sweet gift God did give me back then to help me be prepared now for when I wouldn’t have as much time. I can pray anywhere and at anytime. I can pray right when someone asks me to instead of writing it down in my journal which inevitably in this season I will forget to do. I can read the Bible with my children and if that is all that I do in a day and don’t get the “alone” time then that is enough and okay. I can respond to the prompting of the Lord when He does give me time to write. I have also been convicted lately to get back to those first gifts He called me to, sending words of encouragement through a blog or email or card. I waste time on my phone because it is more accessible than a pen and paper. But if it is something the Lord has called me to do, putting down my phone if it’s not used for encouragement is worth it.

I don’t get to see my friends as much, as the logistics of that are just more difficult now. My home is a safe space for my two year old. Anywhere else is not. And by “safe space” I mean she will tear yo house up. So I just try to keep her in mine, not yours. So that has made me so thankful for being able to stay in touch with others through phone calls and texts and this nifty little thing called Voxer, because let’s face it, phone conversation aren’t happening with the “sweet” noises in the background when mom is on the phone. All this is to say, I SEE YOU FRIENDS! I’m in it with you mama. I haven’t forgotten you even if I haven’t been over in awhile.

My point. This season. I am told to cherish it. I do. I am told it will go by so fast. I know.  I am told to not fret or worry or do all the things we do in the middle of all the things we are in. I am learning. God is so good to give me these amazing children. He is so good to use them to show me ALL the ways I need Jesus everyday because I fail and mess up. He is so good to give me a chance EVERY day to grow in my trust. I say that I trust, and then a new season comes to test me and refine me to an even deeper level of trust. I am looking at this season now as THE very best season ever. Because it is. It is the one I am in. It is my sweet spot. Tomorrow will be too.

My bible study looks like this now. Little eyes peeping at me and little toes resting beside me. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

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Construction

Our tradition the past several years is to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday at the beach in November. It’s a great time, good rates, not crowded, and usually warm enough still to enjoy. We stay at a place right on the beach with an indoor water park so if the weather isn’t the best we still have plenty to do. There is a Starbucks in the lobby for mama (insert praise hands here!) It has become a fun tradition we really enjoy as a family. Last year we were able to have a most extraordinary time because a horseback riding fundraiser on the beach was happening right in front of our condo. The finish line to a 20 mile ride was right in front of us so we got to see hundreds and hundreds of horses and riders finish their ride and even got to meet some of them and MK (our horse lover) got to sit on one. We had no idea that would be happening while we were there, it was such a wonderful surprise and gift from the Lord!

This year was a little different…. this was our view when we got there.

This is what is called a Beach Renourishment Project. A large barge out in the ocean sucks up sand from the ocean floor and pumps it into pipes that run on the beach and then down the length of the beach, building the beach back up. They move the pipes slowly down the beach, extending and reconnecting and pumping sand in one spot for about three days then move down a little further and so on.

When we arrived they were almost to our condo,  which caused our beach entrance to be closed the second day we were there.  Oh those first thoughts that popped into my head. “This is so ugly. This is not the view we payed for. Why didn’t someone tell us from management? The whole point of staying on the beach is to be able to walk out to the beach. The construction noise at night will keep us all up. This will ruin Sophie’s birthday.”  Man, typing this out sure is hard. Because I see how selfish and spoiled it sounds and now you all do too. I didn’t speak all of these words but I thought them. And my daughter could gauge the temperature I was giving off. She cried when she saw the bulldozers and huge rusty pipes. So I knew my attitude had to change so that hers would change as well. So I decided to make the best of the situation and stay positive. My husband is so good at this. I am so thankful that he can turn any frown upside down 🙂

Isn’t it sweet how the Lord can so quickly give us a little nudge in that right direction as well, instead of leaving us in a place of discontent. My thoughts changed to gratitude. Many people can’t even afford a vacation at all, so I am thankful we were there. We have a nice 4 bedroom condo, with a view of the ocean, albeit construction filled beach, but we still have the sights and sounds of the ocean. We were not one of the families devastated by the recent hurricanes. We have much to be thankful for. We are celebrating another year of life for my precious gift of a daughter. My husband is able to get off work for this trip, which means he has a job. That is something to be thankful for. Some family and friends came with us so we have family and friends, that is something to be grateful for! We can walk the extra bit down the street to get to a beach entry point, which means we have legs and are healthy, that is something to be grateful for! Every single thing I could think of to complain about can be replaced with something instead to be thankful for. And those are just the temporal things. God didn’t stop there!!

He began to show me this work, this construction, as what He was doing in my heart. Not to be too symbolic here but glory be, wasn’t this such a picture of His sanctifying work in our lives?!?! This seemingly ugly construction site had a purpose. To restore and renourish what the storms had taken away. Can I get an amen??!! The construction site of my heart so many times doesn’t feel pretty, it’s not something I want to look at. I can focus on the yuck that is being stirred up, but there is a purpose. Any time I sin, there is loss. There is something missing that should be there. Many times it takes a storm or trial to show me that. But then there is the restoration once I turn towards repentance and away from the sin.

Not all trials are the result of God wanting to show us our sin. Trials teach us perseverance which leads to hope! There are times that trials give me perspective I need because it points me to that hope and draws me closer to that hope and that hope does not disappoint. (Romans 5:3-5) If I would have just looked a few feet above the mess I was focusing on, this is what I would have seen…

IMG_4147Above those rusty pipes, there is still the majesty and splendor and glory of God. He is always there, never changing, and THAT is the perspective I need. Look up!! Too many times I can focus on my yuck, instead of focusing on Him. I am learning that so deeply in this season. Jesus has covered my sin and given me His righteousness. Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account. Romans 4:7-8. I don’t think I will ever stop being amazed and just overwhelmed by that. I can look to Him, follow Him, and trust Him as He cleans out my heart by showing me His. But I must keep looking to Him; His example, His love, His pattern of ministry, His work, His Word, His righteousness and His glory. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7.

Can I tell you that by the end of the trip we were kind of enjoying the construction site on the beach. It’s not every day you get to see something like that. The pipes were huge and they made little sand bridges over them once they opened up our part of the beach again so we had to walk over them to get to the water. One night we went down to the beach and had a dance party in the dark, under the moon, beside a big rusty pipe with sand and sea shells and water pumping through it. It was one of my favorite memories of the trip. Dancing with my girls, not caring who saw us and feeling the freedom of a life lived with a purpose beyond the earthly concerns of this world. (Dancing in the Dark from the movie Home and Jordan Feliz’s River were two great beach dance party songs by the way) Here we are dancing in the dark…

When we pray Psalm 139:23-24 we better mean it, because God will do it surely. Search me O God and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.

After my initial bad attitude and wanting to change the construction I can look back on that trip now as an extraordinary time, just like last year, because the goodness of the Lord was all over it. “Here Holly, let me deliver to you a larger than life metaphor of the sanctifying work I am doing in your heart by giving you a construction site you are going to want to complain about, thus needing the sanctifying work I am doing in your heart.” Ouch. He is so kind. He is so patient. And sometimes He is just smack dab right in front of my face with something so I’ll “get” it.

Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore me to the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12. 

The 2018 Myrtle Beach Renourishment Project didn’t just happen on the Grand Strand, it happened in my heart as well. Thank you Lord for the surpassing riches of your grace in kindness toward me in Christ Jesus!

Lamp

My favorite part about the Olympic games is the running of the torch. From person to person, from country to country, from hand to hand passing off the torch until the last runner climbs the stairs and lights the infamous lamp for all to see. As I was reading a story in 2 Kings around the time of the Winter Olympics I was struck by that imagery. The story is unfolding of Athaliah, who was basically trying to kill all the royal bloodline, her own family, so that she could rule. It seems unfathomable and savage, yet  looks like she is getting close to destroying the line that was promised to David to always be in place.

But to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name.” 1 Kings 11:36.

The lamp looked like it was going to go out. But God doesn’t fail on His promises. And even when it looks like the end, or that an impossible task is ahead, He accomplishes all He sets out to do. In this case, to provide a Messiah from the line of David. God used Jehosheba, in her obedience, to accomplish His promise. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she rose and destroyed all the royal offspring. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and placed him and his nurse in the bedroom. So they hid him from Athaliah, and he was not put to death. So he was hidden with her in the house of the LORD six years, while Athaliah was reigning over the land. Now in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and brought the captains of hundreds of the Carites and of the guard, and brought them to him in the house of the LORD. Then he made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the LORD, and showed them the king’s son.

Then he brought the king’s son out and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony; and they made him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, ” Long live the king!” When Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she came to the people in the house of the LORD. She looked and behold, the king was standing by the pillar, according to the custom, with the captains and the trumpeters beside the king; and all the people of the land rejoiced and blew trumpets. Then Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, “Treason! Treason!” And Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains of hundreds who were appointed over the army and said to them, “Bring her out between the ranks, and whoever follows her put to death with the sword.” For the priest said, “Let her not be put to death in the house of the LORD.” So they seized her, and when she arrived at the horses’ entrance of the king’s house, she was put to death there. Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people, that they would be the LORD’S people, also between the king and the people. All the people of the land went to the house of Baal, and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces thoroughly, and killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest appointed officers over the house of the LORD. He took the captains of hundreds and the Carites and the guards and all the people of the land; and they brought the king down from the house of the LORD, and came by the way of the gate of the guards to the king’s house. And he sat on the throne of the kings. So all the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet. For they had put Athaliah to death with the sword at the king’s house. Jehoash was seven years old when he became king.”2 Kings‬ 11:1-4, 12-21‬ ‬‬‬‬

Wow. What a piece of history!! Because Jehosheba, the captains, guards, and priests were all obedient, the king was preserved, the promise was fulfilled, and the plans of an evil force were thwarted. This attempt to completely destroy the house of David was an attack on “God’s redemptive plan – a plan that centered in the Messiah, which the Davidic covenant promised.” (McArthur Study Bible) The attack was planned and calculated but no attack on God can ever stop His plans and fulfilment of His promies. 

This is such an encouragement to me. Not only that God’s plans are always played out in full but that WE get to be a part of it. Like those Olympic runners passing the torch from person to person with the same goal in sight, we too can be used to carry the light of Christ from generation to generation, no matter what obstacles or plans seem to want to derail us. But it is not by our power or control. The pressure is off. The burden does not fall on us! “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit’, says the Lord of host.” Zechariah 4:6. I think so many times in the Bible God physcially saves His people from desparate situations and places they are in (Daniel, Joseph, Rahab, Lot,  and on an on and on) to remind us of His power to spiritually save people. Are you in an unequally yoked marriage? It’s not beyond God’s power. There is no level of darkness or unbelief that is too strong for the God who saves. Do you have a child living in blatent sin who is blinded by the lies of the world?  There is no lie or path of destruction that is too strong to stop the God who saves. Are you stuck in a sin pattern that you desperately want to be free from? There is no part of your flesh or disobedience that is too powerful for God’s cleansing and correcting. Are you stuck in a place of despair, depression, or lost all hope? There is no feeling or emotion too strong to repel the God who saves!!

The Davidic covenant was not stopped by the wicked plans of an evil force.  I am a mama who desperately wants my children to have a saving faith relationship with their Father. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John‬ 1:4‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ This story in 2 Kings encourages me. The enemy wants to come after them, he wants to annihilate them, he wants to tear them out of my hands, but I believe that they are God’s children and He has a firmer grip and a stronger promise than any evil can overcome.

We are planted in jobs, neighborhoods, homes, communities, churches, that have people surrounding us that can be the next person to pick up the torch of the gospel after we have faithfully shared. We can’t control the outcome, we can’t change their hearts or open their eyes, we can’t MAKE them saved but we can be obedient and let God work and fulfill His kingdom promises just as He saved Jehoash. And He tells us to! “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “’how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” Romans 10:14-15.  We may never know in such a dramatic way as Jehoash’s story when and how someone is saved. But that is not the point. The growing and saving is the Lord’s work. The sharing and walking is ours. “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” Ephesians 5:8.

The Olympic flame is a beautiful symbol of unity and humanity. Oh but isn’t the light of Christ carried through the gospel message from generation to generation, from nation to nation, a much BIGGER symbol of unity because it is for everyone!!  God loves you, no matter your race, your economic statues, your physical appearance, your gender, your IQ, or any other qualifying factor that would make you a chosen candidate, You don’t have to come to Him clean. You don’t have to come to Him pretending to have it all together. You are chosen simply because there is a love greater than any other. You are chosen simply because you have a Father who set in to motion a gospel message that saved us from ourselves.  “O Lord God of hosts, restore us; Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.” Psalm 80:19

I am so thankful for those that came before me, the very first Christians, and the ones saved right before me; those saved today and those saved tomorrow. I am thankful that Jesus Christ promised us a Helper as He was spurring on the disciples for their life of service and evangelism. I am thankful that the Light of Jesus Christ can NEVER be put out! It will shine in the darkest places and it will shine for eternity.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Vessel

I’m broken y’all. We’ve been through a lot these past few weeks. I was home with the girls when a tornado hit the house, trees fell in, and fear gripped me. Meanwhile my husband was driving in it and got stuck on the road when a tree fell in front of him and behind him. Since then we’ve lived in a hotel and now an apartment. Our house was broken into during this and I discovered it when I was by myself getting some items I needed from the house. It has rained so parts of ceilings are starting to get soggy and fall in. My husband is having surgery on his foot today which was scheduled before all of this happened. My oldest is struggling with all the change that is happening around her with the moves and lack of routine. I’m a few days away from my last trimester of pregnancy. But these are all just circumstances. These circumstances aren’t what makes me broken. It’s my sinful nature, it’s my idols I put before the Lord, it’s my pride and my tongue. We are ALL broken compared to our perfect, Holy, righteous, Father. But the good news?! Jesus Christ made a way!! And because of that I have a redeemer who uses all of this for my good. He is with me, carries me through it, strengthens me, never leaves me, draws me in when I push away, uses the body of Christ to minister to me and love me well, and most importantly (because there were too many “me’s” in that sentence) He points others to HIM during crisis, HIS glory shines, HIS power is on display, HIS love abounds, and HIS attributes are magnified.

On October 9th a dear friend sent me an email. She said she couldn’t sleep and had me on her mind along with several verses about fear. I told her I don’t have any noticeable fear issues that I was aware of but that the Lord must know something I don’t, so I will hold those verses close. On Monday the 23rd, I met that fear. Once the tree fell on the house and partly through the hallway bathroom and door (the hallway we were sitting in) I experienced an adrenaline and fear like never before. I grabbed the girls and ran downstairs to the crawl space under the stairs and prayed. Sophie and I took turns praying and crying. In that dark small space I met that fear. Not knowing where my husband was I met that fear. A few nights later, paralyzed with realizing how little I could protect my children and the outcome of their lives I met that fear. The first time I went back to the house I was triggered by the smell of pine which was the overpowering smell when the tree fell in. Smelling it again as I pulled up to the house, I met that fear. The Lord knew this would bring out a fear in me I didn’t know I had. He knew I would wrestle with control and anxiety and lack of trust. Can you see His love???

“’Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Two weeks prior to the storm He sent me the antidote, His perfect Word that renews my mind and comforts and washes fear away and replaces it with truth. He sent me specific verses that would bring much comfort, and would be something to cling to when I couldn’t think clearly or see beyond the fear. He used a friend to deliver it that He knew would be faithful to obey and send the email.  Do you see His love??

“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NASB‬‬

That amount of love He has for me is greater than any storm. That amount of love is greater than any fear. That amount of love He showed me through a dear friend foreshadowed how His love and grace and mercy would carry us through this as He uses the hands and feet (and backs!) of others. I am a broken vessel, He is a magnificent light that shines through the trials, shines through the fears, shines through the brokenness, and shines through my sinful, pride filled heart as he prunes me and refines me, and upholds me during these moments that seem “hard” to the world but bring MUCH glory to Him.

My husband and I have checked in with each other often to remind each other of the positives throughout this. I’m so thankful for his positive attitude that compliments the truth I know. Some of those positives are….

We are all safe! No damage to his truck. Our insurance has been phenomenal. We were able to get into a hotel the first night and had power when so many didn’t for several days. Our clothes and most items in our home weren’t damaged, just the structure itself and items in the bathrooms. When its all said and done we will have a nicer home than before. We are in a first floor apartment which will make it easier for Boone while he recoveres from foot surgery, no stairs! We are closer to his work which will make it easier for me to drive him to work. We are in a convenient part of town. When we were robbed we weren’t there. We were still able to go on a trip for Sophie’s birthday which we had planned before this happened and it was perfect timing, we needed the break. I have a church family who has loved us so well. We have neighbors and friends that have helped and my parents being here and retired has made such a difference as they have helped with the girls so much. It has made us realize how much less we can live with and how much “stuff” we have that we don’t need. We have a big enough space that even if the baby comes before we get back in the house, we have plenty of room where we are now. I know there are many more positives that I am forgetting, but it just illustrates that even through logistics of life change that accompany a trial, good and positive circumstances can be orchestrated that make life a little easier. I’m so thankful my husband has been on board with pointing those out and reminding me of them.

It brings tears to my eyes thinking of the people that have surrounded us with love, tangible love. His hands and feet have babysat for us while we packed up the house to get things in the hotel and then again to the apartment. His hands and feet on several occasions have brought people to our cold, dark house to pack boxes, move furniture, load trucks, and just be there in a place I didn’t want to be alone in. His hands and feet have brought us hot, healthy meals, delivered groceries to our apartment, sent us gift cards, made us yummy healthy snacks while in the hotel, given us boxes and other essentials, and I’m sure many more things I am forgetting.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”” Galatians‬ ‭5:13-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

His hands and feet have loved my children well and made sure Sophie got to celebrate her birthday several different times and get her mind off what is happening around her. We have been called, texted, emailed, checked on, and prayed for by many. People who are going through their own trials, people who have their own burdens have brought our family before the Lord and petitioned on our behalf. His love is never ending. I am humbled by it and can say that it helps me believe and proclaim “It is well with my soul”. His love is what saved my soul and His love is what heals my soul.

The peace I have, the peace He gives, isn’t a warm and fuzzy feeling of perfection in the world. It isn’t blinders that shield us from pain and trial. It’s not a peace that can be replicated through any other means. It is a reconciling, of who we were and who we now are! It is a peace that mediates and brings us to our Creator whole and clean. It is a peace that gives us a firm, never changing, solid foundation to stand on when the world is crumbling and cracking around us. It is a peace that anchors us deep when the waves are over our head and the trials are overwhelming, yet we KNOW we are not going anywhere because we are His!!!! I pray you know that peace. I pray that word is more than a flashback to the 70’s and a logo on a yoga mat. I pray you truly know the Prince of Peace who brings the greatest love you will ever know!

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions 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. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”Colossians‬ ‭1:15-20‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Seven Days

Seven is a special number in the Bible and it is a special number for me now as well. Seven is the number of days from the time I shared my abortion story here, until the time God created a new life in my womb. I didn’t initially realize the timing. We were kind of in shock from the surprise at first, not thinking we COULD get pregnant naturally again. It wasn’t on my radar at all. After the shock wore off and I had to start figuring out with the nurses when I conceived, I realized it was seven days after sharing Christ’s story of redemption in my life. Wow. Do you doubt His love? Do you doubt His power? Do you doubt He forgives it all when He says “It is finished”. Please don’t doubt. Please listen and see that the Lord is good. Look around you, believe that He carried His cross and bore your sins so you don’t have to carry yours. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans‬ ‭5:8‬. ‭

My story isn’t about gifts and rewards though. It’s not about if you do “this” He’ll bless you with “that”. It’s about believing and having faith in your Savior and letting your eyes be open to the abundant joy that can be yours no matter your circumstances. It’s about praying and asking God to give you the perspective to see His restoration and handiwork in your life and trusting it even if you can’t see it. It’s about opening your heart and mind to His Word and let it change you as you get to know your Savior and King.

Some say this is a blessing, a reward for obedience in sharing my abortion story. This child is not a reward for ME to receive, it’s for GOD to receive glory. This child is His, for His purposes and already she is shining His bright light of grace and mercy! She is showing His power to overcome what doctors say, she is showing His power of redemption. She is in the same wound that was filled with scars, now that womb is filled with his sovereign grace. Oh praise His name!

We didn’t think we could have children after our first born six year ago. It took years to conceive with our first child. Due to my reproductive organs being a bit of a mess, only one ovary after a cyst removal, endometriosis and scar tissue, we were told it probably wouldn’t happen again. And we were fine with that because adoption had been placed on our hearts. We were able to adopt our sweet MK 18 months ago and were on the path to grow our family that way again. But God…

I was on a form of birth control I thought I was only on to relieve painful monthly symptoms that affected me and my ability to function well at work (back then) and home. I didn’t think it was actually for birth control since I didn’t think I could get pregnant. It was recommended by my midwife after my first born. Then last year a friend of mine told me to research what I was on and once I did I came to the conviction I should stop. Also my husband realized his moral beliefs were changing in some areas and he agreed I should no longer be on that form of birth control. “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Proverbs‬ ‭21:1‬. I was off the birth control for months and dealing with the issues it was preventing but I was settled and okay with the inconvenience and not working now made it easier. I was moved in a very strong way to finally post my story publically. The first time I had written about the “A” word. Once it was public God did amazing things through those words and I was experiencing another layer of freedom from shame and I was seeing those words were for so many others to see His love and power! Do you see??? Do you see how God was lining this all up. Preparing the way for Him to blow me away with His plan.  “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬. Seven days later the two lines that mean “pregnant” showed up again. After being nauseas and exhausted for a while I thought I would take a test just to set my mind at ease. Three tests later we decided to finally believe I was pregnant. And shock set in. For about a month. Once the shock and nausea wore off I was able to clearly experience and praise what God had done. Seventeen years ago I was in shock too but this time I saw it as a way to magnify the name of Jesus, to praise His name and give him Glory. This time I see this precious baby as a gift, a fearfully and wonderfully made creation, perfected by her Creator. This time I see the task given to me as being her mom as a privilege, a serious commitment, a joy, and something I know God will use to grow me and sanctify me. This time I see her as a sweet addition to our family. Our oldest is beside herself with excitement. She loves talking to my belly and wants to know all things maternity and baby. She was gifted uniquely to be an amazing big sister as she already is so loving and helpful and nurturing and kind with MK. Now she will be a big sis to two girls and she takes her role very seriously.

The number seven is associated with completion, fulfilment and perfection in the Scriptires. As I see this special number of days, resulting in the conception of my daughter, after sharing the healing Christ did in my life after a history with abortion, I do see the completion of letting go of my shame, the fulfillment of His promise of healing and cleansing from my past sin, and the perfection of His creation in my womb.

Will you celebrate this life with me?! Will you celebrate the glory of God and the magnitude of His love as He has displayed it in my life and yours? Will you celebrate with me and praise His name for what He is showing others through the story of redemption He continues to write? Will you trust Him with your life, and turn over those worries and anxieties to Him? Not everyone’s story will turn out like mine as far as circumstances. Not every post-abortive woman will bear children again. Not every mom who has been told she can’t have children will conceive again. But if you put your faith and trust in Christ you will have the same promise fulfilled as me, and that is the promise of eternal life and salvation with Christ, the promise of a redeemed life, of abundant joy that only comes through putting ALL of your hope in your anchor and rock, Jesus Christ. He is our joy and as long as you have Him your joy may be made full! “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John‬ ‭15:11‬

“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil” Hebrews‬ ‭6:17-19‬ 

 

Clean

My point in writing this isn’t political. It isn’t to sway an opinion. It isn’t to revolutionize this topic with my spin on it. My point in writing this is simply…this is my story.  God is the author of redemption and healing. This is a story of that. I knew this day would come. As a writer, I knew that there would be a day when I was so compelled to write that it would finally come pouring out and I would share it with others.  Today is that day.  I have shared this with some in an email, but now I am sharing it with you all. So here I am writing to you telling you that seventeen years ago I had an abortion. Seven years ago I kneeled before the Lord and trusted Him as my Savior. What I am writing now is to tell you about my experience seventeen years ago, to tell you about my experience with it now, and to give you the perspective of a pro-life, post-abortive, born-again Christian living in a time when the temperature on this subject, abortion, is extremely hot.

When the two pink lines showed on the pregnancy test I wasn’t sure what to do. Who do I call first? What do I do next? What have I done? The inner turmoil began. I didn’t want to make this decision. I wanted someone to make it for me. I felt like I would ruin my boyfriend’s life if I had the baby. I was addicted to him. In the unhealthiest of ways. He didn’t make me do it in the same way he didn’t stop me. It isn’t his fault. I thought there was no way my parents would let me give their grandchild up for adoption so I thought that option was out of the question. I didn’t tell them. (This past year, after tremendous healing, I have told my parents.) My thinking wasn’t rational or sane. It was panic induced. Obviously not capable of making wise decisions, I turned to my friends, the ones I knew that had already had an abortion. They didn’t regret it and said they knew it was the right decision for them. I heard that from three of my close friends. That number baffles me. If three of my very closest friends had one, then how many more of my acquaintances had?? I was in my first years of college at a fairly liberal school. At the time I regularly drank, smoked, and did a myriad of other drugs. Had I already hurt the baby? Could the baby already be damaged? Is it a baby? I do remember thinking it wasn’t a baby yet. So many questions and confusing thoughts but from the very first moment I started a process I wasn’t even aware of. I began to push down feelings deep down to a place I thought would be unreachable. I was preparing myself for the decision I knew I was going to make.

My boyfriend and I went to a pregnancy crisis center in that college town. I didn’t realize what a pregnancy crisis center was. A few minutes after walking inside I realized what it was and that the agenda was to save the baby. I felt like a paper bag holding a diamond inside. As long as the diamond was saved the bag didn’t matter. I could just be crumpled up and tossed to the side and go back to being the trash I was. They asked to pray for the baby with us. When my boyfriend said no they did it anyway. My boyfriend was getting angrier the longer we were there as he was realizing the Christian viewpoint that was being offered. Now in saying this I am in no way discouraging pregnancy care centers. I hope to one day volunteer at one as the Lord leads. The experience I’m sharing is not to disparage the intent of those working there but to let you see the state of mind I was in during that time. These were self inflicted labels and my eyes and ears were closed.  I am not saying the diamond isn’t important. It is! Oh it is! I am SO thankful for the people and the places that exist solely to save the lives of innocent children. I am thankful for the marches and fundraisers and awareness that is being raised because of the Christian pregnancy crisis centers around the country. I am so grateful for any and every life saved because of them and I praise God for their diligence and passion and ministry. My point is this. There are two hearts that need to be saved. In trying to save the one you need to reach the other. I needed the gospel! Marches, pickets, signs, lobbying, and social media can’t reach someone the way a one on one, face to face, outreach of the gospel can. My hope is that for every picket sign held there is a discipleship relationship happening with a young person you know. My hope is that for every march there is an evangelism outreach happening in your neighborhood or the neighborhood you’ve never been to. My hope is that for every shout of the law “thou shout not murder” there is a pleading for the soul of another to kneel and give themselves to Christ. I needed the gospel. How can we expect someone to not sin if they don’t know Jesus as their Savior? This is sin we are dealing with. It isn’t an agenda, it isn’t left wing or right wing, it isn’t feminism, it is sin. Sin can only be reached and slayed by the blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I don’t remember every detail of the day it happened. I actually don’t know the date at all. I can pinpoint the year because of where I was living and the circumstances surrounding that time. I can’t remember the name of the place I just know the city it was in. I wanted it washed out of my mind, so holding on to facts surrounding it wasn’t something I was interested in. I do remember exactly where I was when I made the call. I remember the apartment I was in, the chair I was sitting on, and the phone book I used to look it up. I remember that I couldn’t say “abortion” so I told them I needed to make an appointment to terminate a pregnancy. I could never say that word until recently. I remember the day we drove there and I remember walking in. I remember what the waiting room looked like and that there was a television with a sitcom on. I remember filling out paper work and being taken through another door where I filled out more paperwork. At this point I was alone, my boyfriend had to wait in the waiting area. I was in a hallway and there were several rooms off from it with other women in them. Many, many, other women. I overheard conversations. I remember hearing from some that is wasn’t their first time. I remember hearing laughter. Chit chat. The cramming down of emotions continued for me. Stuff it down Holly. Way down. To that place. It won’t be reached. You won’t have to feel this again. I convinced myself it wasn’t a baby yet, but the idea of a future baby I was getting rid of was still sad. It was finally “my turn”. I do not remember what the doctor looked like. I do remember a nurse who had kind eyes.  As I was laying down I heard noises, machines, and the inner turmoil began to bubble up. Stuff it down Holly!!! I was screaming on the inside, shove it down!!! Put these feelings in that place, it will be unreachable. It was over and I was a different person. I now was a mom who killed her child. I would now be nursing a scar that seemed to never want to heal. I had to go to a waiting area with other women sitting in chairs around the room. Some were chatting. Every part of my body was raging. I was bleeding. I kept having to get up to go with the nurse to the bathroom to change my pads. I was quickly becoming nauseas while back in my seat. I told the nurse I was going to throw up. She gave me a bed pan to throw up in. In that room, with all those other women, my body was so violently reacting that I couldn’t catch my breath. I was panicking. I was begging for my boyfriend but because of privacy issues they couldn’t let him in. He was waiting out the back door entrance in the car. No one else was throwing up. I seemed to be the only one having a reaction like this. Every emotion I had tried to stuff down to that unreachable place was being hurled back up all over me in my bile and blood. What had I done. When I was finally cleared to leave I went out the back door. You don’t exit where you enter. That would be bad for business. I got in the car and didn’t speak a word the whole way home. I cried and bled.

When we got home I stayed at my boyfriend’s apartment for two weeks. I told my parents and my work that I was sick. My boyfriend tried desperately to cheer me up. He took me to Carowinds; as if rollercoasters and funnel cakes could fix me. He just wanted to see me smile. Some part of him loved me because he was trying to fix it. I have two pictures from that week that my boyfriend took. I look hollow. That’s the only word I could come up with to describe how I look in those pictures. I waited tables for a living at that point. I remember the first time I waited on a family with a baby in my section after I went back to work. That is when I picked back up with and got better at pushing it all back down. The unreachable place. I developed a good poker face. Years of hiding it. Years of lying. Years of pretending it didn’t bother me when someone had a conversation with me about abortion. Pretending that song or that commercial didn’t bother me. Realizing that no hateful words or labels or judgement from others could make me feel any worse. Words like “murderer” don’t hurt; an empty womb does.

In those following years that boyfriend and I broke up. I continued pursuing a career in restaurant management. I met and married my husband. I continued drinking but stopped most of the other stuff. I was settling in to “adult” life. Friends were getting married and having kids. We still weren’t. In those years of not conceiving the self condemning continued. I deserve this. Of course I’m not going to get pregnant again, I shouldn’t be allowed to. In those years I was all over the place in my religious beliefs. I had enjoyed taking classes and studying eastern religions. I was beginning to look into and believe we are connected by energy. The universe as a vast web of minds. I was getting very far away from God in my thinking and exploring. The times I did entertain the notion that God was real and heaven and hell were too, I decided heaven wasn’t a place for me. I had done the ONE thing and had gone just too far. There were times I rationalized my decisions with fate and destiny. A lot of twisted things going on in that head of mine. Things started to disintegrate again. So many of my mistakes and decisions were catching up with me. I got a DUI, lost my license, community service, the whole humiliating deal. We still weren’t able to conceive a child. My marriage was on the verge of ruin because I was selfish, controlling, angry, and not trustworthy. Like a bulldozer pushing mounds of dirt on me I felt like I was being buried alive. That is when I could feel God putting His hand down in that pit of dirt and denial and pull me up. He reached the unreachable place. I couldn’t escape the compelling nature of a God who was pursuing me relentlessly. That is when I began to see my sin and call it that. It wasn’t just bad decisions it was sin. It wasn’t just a past of mistakes, it was sin. I was brought to salvation by a mighty and loving God, who could, yes, love EVEN me.

Now let me tell you a story of redemption. It is mind blowing! God is the best author there is. He wrote an amazing book that is alive and active and he continues to write our testimonies and our life story and I just can’t believe the one I get to live. In the beginning, after I was saved, all I knew to do was pray. I began running and praying. It was a sweet time out alone in God’s creation talking to Him. I was learning how to be a better wife. My sweet husband was forgiving and patient. After my first five mile run I came home and on a whim took a pregnancy test. It was positive. We were going to have a baby. It brought up emotions that I still hadn’t completely healed from but God continued to replace that with the truth. The cross is enough. You are forgiven. My sweet daughter was born and we realized soon after I probably wouldn’t conceive another. Cysts, removal of an ovary, endometriosis, were all contributing to the difficulty with conceiving. Adopting became a conversation. It had in the past but this time we started really talking about it. I was so clearly being led to adoption. Now I need to add something in here. My husband isn’t a Christian. During that time I was coming to know the Lord He was realizing his own beliefs. Even though we have two totally different world views and beliefs, our marriage is restored, thriving, and wonderful. I have such a kind husband. He just doesn’t know his Savior like I do. But my God is faithful. So back to adoption. We started the process and became licensed to foster/adopt in our county. A year and a half after we began the process we got a call about a little girl born on my husband’s birthday who needed a home. Her mom was brave enough to carry her and protect her for nine months. I admire her so much. I am so grateful for her decision. I am so thankful God let me be a part of this adoption story which reminds me of ALL of our adoption stories when we come to put our faith and trust in Christ. That being said, getting our second daughter brought up some of those emotions again. Do I deserve her? Would people be so happy about what we were doing if they knew what I had done seventeen years ago? Some lies and fiery darts were flying. But God in the sweet way He always does filled me with truth. One morning at church I was holding my daughter who woke up right before the service was over. Communion was starting. We were sitting in our seats getting ready to drink and eat to remind us of the blood and body of Christ. The song lyrics that were playing were “sin had left a crimson stain and He washed it white as snow.” As I sang those words and tears poured down my face and I looked down at my daughter I felt God’s arms wrapping around me. What a reminder of redemption!!! What a reminder of the life transforming power of the gospel!! My scarlet letter had followed me, that blood I could never wash off my hands, and Christ came, a perfect sinless loving Savior and spilled all his bile and blood for me. For every part of me. For the seventeen years ago massacre that happened in my body.

I needed the gospel. There are girls that are confused. There are women that are callous. There are victims of horrific acts that now have a life in their womb. There are girls scared of their parents. There are women trying to protect a reputation they think they have. There are women who believe their child would be better off in heaven. There are woman who think there is no other option. There are those that feel the burden so heavy they can’t carry it. There are women who say they don’t care if they’re going to hell. There are women who never regret it and there are women who never get over it. There are women who heal and there are women who give up. They all need the gospel. We all do. The fight for sanctity of life has to be fueled by the gospel message. I know there are those that will disagree. I know there may be someone reading this who feel no regret. My point in sharing is not to add to an argument or create a divide. I want to simply share the power of Jesus Christ to redeem and heal the hole that is there and to bear witness to his great love that saved me.

I am writing this now because my hope is that there would be less emphasis on a Facebook post with an ensuing battle in the comments to affect change, and more focus on souls needing to be won to Christ. I am speaking to my self as well and would ask that you pray for me. Pray that a discipleship relationship would be opened. Pray that I would clearly see what the next step is for me with my message and point of view that I pray God will use to save lives! Pray that I would be able to build a relationship with the Pregnancy Care Center when and if that is the direction God wants me to go. I do not feel this epidemic, this mass killing in our country, will be changed by shouts, by hateful words, by pointing the finger and condemning, by ranking sin, or by giving up. It will be changed by Jesus Christ. One person at a time hearing about and coming to know Him as their Lord and Savior and then continuing to be discipled in love and truth. Policy makers, lobbyists, and government regulations won’t change the heart of a women who is determined to end the life of her child. But Jesus can!

My Arrow

Too many times I have written or spoken about those “hard” moments of parenting my 5 year old. They truly are few and far between. It’s just in those moments though it feels so heavy and all consuming. But the majority of the time she is kind, compassionate, sensitive, hilarious, witty, and fun to be around. She is a gift and a precious soul and child of God. It is a privilege to be her mama. I wanted to share some things that happened this week with my sweet Sophie that have bolstered my spirit and encouraged me greatly.

Sophie and I were sitting outside while MK was napping. I was doing my bible study and she was coloring. We weren’t talking about anything and then she just started this conversation….

Sophie- I know some people don’t believe in God. I believe in God.

Me- Why do you believe in God?

Sophie- Because I WANT to believe and obey

Sophie-But daddy doesn’t believe. Why?

Me- Some people are blind, they just can’t see

Sophie- They just can’t see the Light of Jesus, but I see the Light of Jesus.
It’s the most important thing to believe mommy.

Sophie- Daddy isn’t doing the right thing because he doesn’t believe.

Me- A lot of people don’t believe. But instead of saying daddy is wrong and we are right, what should we do?

Sophie- Pray. I’m going to pray and it is going to happen just like that (she makes a snapping motion). God will make the people stop not believing mommy. One day He will.

Me- God loves us and one day yes, all people will know He is who He says He is. God sees your faith and belief in your daddy believing and it is a precious thing to Him. And to me.

I love these conversations with her. I don’t know what all she understands and what all her little heart is experiencing but Jesus knows and this little girl shows me what the “faith of a child” looks like.

“But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. ” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.” Mark‬ ‭10:14-16‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Later that day we prayed for a friend who had a minor surgery and had some complications from it that had her in horrible pain. This women just lost her husband and is a widow caring for 4 young children. We were praying for her foot and her healing. Sophie knows she lost her husband and when we finished praying she asked if her husband was in heaven. I said yes. She said she was glad he was there with God. She then asked if people who don’t believe in God will go to heaven. (She has asked this before). I told her God is a loving and good Father, and we don’t know how His plan always works out but we know until a person’s final breath, they can still choose to turn to Him and repent and believe in Jesus Christ and then they will go to heaven. She said she hopes her daddy chooses to believe and she will pray until his last breath. She still loves him unconditionally and looks up to him and knows she has a wonderful daddy. His unbelief doesn’t change her love for him. And she also doesn’t shy away from speaking about God and asking her daddy questions. What a sweet picture of evangelism.

I never expected my greatest encourager in my unequally yoked marriage, besides the Lord, would be my 5 year old daughter. Her simplicity and faith and hope is so beautiful and encouraging and an amazing gift from my Abba Father. This little girl has a heart that is opening wide for Jesus I believe, and I can’t wait to see all that He will do in and through her. He is already ministering to ME through her. I pray she comes to know Jesus with a saving faith and continues to believe. Her middle name is Grace and He is certainly pouring it all over this family through her.

After we prayed she started singing “I’m in the Lords army, yes sir…”

She has started singing her own songs as well, just free flow making up words and singing them out. I video taped her doing it this week without her knowing while she was drawing on her big easel dry erase board. She was sitting there drawing and singing, I transcribed what she sang…

“Whoever don’t believe I want them to know that God is with them always
He’s here to protect us and to be with us everyday
He’s here to help us, he’s here to love us
He knows that He made everything
He know that humans are nice
But some of the person do not believe, do not believe
And that’s not fine with me
They have to know that God is around
They have to know that God is around

He wants us to be His sheep
He wants us to be a glory to God
He wants us to be a love for others
And if you do believe Oh Oh if you do believe
If you know that God is here
He knows that we’re with Him
And we know that He’s with us
And if you do know that you get it
He is the most powerfulest in the world

You got to believe that He is possible
If you don’t believe that’s not fine with me
Whenever He’s coming to help one another
He’s gonna come and help us everyday
He wants to know how much we love Him
He wants to love us so much today”

I do not “push” what I believe on her. I tell her what the Bible says and what Jesus did and I pray that the Holy Spirit will convict her and she will have faith in Him and a personal relationship with Him that backs up all that she sings and prays about now. I’m thankful God let’s her heart be open to the gospel and she is able to speak and sing about Him AND love her daddy and come to understand there are believers and non believers. Just as I am sensitive to how others speak about “them” (non believers) I pray she also will be able to shed light and love into the world, with compassion and grace, not condemnation and judgment. And pray. Oh let her be a prayer warrior for the lost!

It’s been a sweet week with this little arrow of mine. Thank you for letting me share how she is a daily encouragement and gift as she lives with compassion, sensitivity, and boldness.

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.” Psalms‬ ‭127:4‬ ‭NASB‬‬

 

Boone

Today is my husband’s birthday. His presence in this world is a gift to me. I wanted to honor him today because I do not do it nearly enough. He will be the first to say it’s not needed, and that is just one of the hundreds of ways he amazes me. So many of the traits and qualities he has show humility and putting others first.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;” Philippians‬ ‭2:3‬ ‭NASB‬.

My husband doesn’t believe in the Bible, yet he acts out and lives out what scripture says in many ways. That is a grace gift from God. God’s common grace poured out onto my husband. I believe my husband was made in the image of God and that truth doesn’t require him to believe in the God that created him. He bears his image because he is His! He is loved by God just as I am. Just as we all are. I pray that one day these many attributes my husband displays will truly be reflections of the Light of Christ in him. He is not going to want any of this recognition but I write about my life and what God is teaching me and this man is a big part of that and I believe it is okay to publicly show appreciation to him and thank God for him today.

Back to this sweet man and the many ways he loves me and our girls so well. We are in an unequally yoked marriage. But my husband didn’t bail. He didn’t say “okay that’s enough you crazy holy roller, I’m out”. He doesn’t try to change my views. He engages me in conversation to try to help me see what he believes and asks me to ponder, research, and consider but he doesn’t do that in a way that is a detriment to our relationship. He supports me and my beliefs in many different ways because he loves me. He loves every part of me. Even the part he doesn’t understand or agree with. That is commitment. That is unconditional love. He came to my baptism and  he gifted me with a cross necklace that day. He has gotten to know my “church” friends and continues to be open to meeting them and being around them. He has even become friends with some of them and serves them and gives his time to them when a need arises. When we first started dating I remember one thing I noticed about him was that he wasn’t just kind to me, he was kind to my friends and family as well. That continues to this day. On random Saturday mornings he will go to Kristy Kreme with SG and get a few 6 packs of donuts and deliver them to various homes. Some of the people he delivers them to are my friends from church. He loves “my people” as he calls them because he loves me! It brings tears to my eyes just typing that.

He works so hard. His work ethic is strong and he enjoys his labor throughout the day. He feels the need to provide for his family and does that beyond what is required. He is passionate about his work and that drives him to be involved in so many areas and parts of his work community. He wants to contribute and do above and beyond what he is asked for the betterment of his colleagues and students and community. Valentines of 2016 he gave me an amazing gift. Even though he doesn’t completely understand I think, my desire to stay home with my children full time, he came to a place where he wanted to honor me and let me stay home. I was staying home with them during the day but was working nights and weekends. He saw the value of me being home at night and on the weekend and what working those hours was doing to me physically. So he made a way for me to stay home full time. Which meant he worked more. He picked up extra classes and continues to work diligently for his family. On top of that, he shows me grace when I haven’t always done my best to help keep us on a tight budget to help with this transition. The Lord is working on that in me, showing me ways I can help him out more and honor this gift he has given me.

He is compassionate and wants to see the viewpoint of others even if he doesn’t agree or understand. He has opened my eyes to areas I have been judgmental and haven’t seen things from others’ viewpoints. He is passionate about social injustices that have happened in our history and continue to affect and shape our view today. He has pushed himself to see that his status and privilege in life isn’t the reality for everyone. He continues to learn and educate and support the efforts to make available opportunities for everyone.

He loves our girls. So perfectly. He is calm with them. He plays and make them laugh and laugh. Daddy is the fun one. He is protective of them. And I know he will love them in the same way he does me in regards to whatever their beliefs become. Our oldest already has conversations with her daddy about his views on God and he is patient and understanding and doesn’t take offense or get frustrated. He pushes her and questions her but in a way that gets her to think, not trying to sway her one way or another. He loved our youngest MK from the moment he set eyes on her and never sees her as his “adopted” daughter. He never tells anyone that part of her story unless it comes up naturally or is someone that was there with us from the beginning. There are several events in the community that reach out to and support parents licensed with our local DSS, one of them is a baseball day. We went this past year with some friends but when we were told to go to the booth and get a free gift that was for all foster/adoptive families he declined. He said we don’t receive “prizes” for having our oldest daughter so he doesn’t want to be rewarded for having MK as a daughter just because she is adopted. He knows she is his daughter, not for praise or special treatment, but his prize is his beautiful child that shares his birthday. I believe support and help is absolutely okay in the foster/adoptive community but I do love my husband’s view on the issue and appreciate his love for her that transcends how she physically came to be with us. His heart continues to be opened to future adoptions, seeing the need, and putting aside selfishness. Again our reasons come from two different starting points but I am so thankful he shares in (and sometimes is even more open to it!) my desire to take care of orphans.

My husband has to live with three women. Enough said right?? On top of that I have a worldview different from his. On top of that I struggle with control and not keeping my mouth shut enough. On top of that I write about our life and share it with others and minister to other women in unequally yoked marriages. On top of that I am very involved with my church and have bible studies I’m in and Lifegroup and other ways I serve. On top of that, I messed up in a lot of ways in the beginning of our marriage before I was saved. Through all of it he forgives me, loves me, supports me, encourages me, showers me, makes me feel adored, grows with me, is dedicated to me, challenges me, and demonstrates love as an action not just a word. I am amazed and blessed and cannot believe he is the husband I get. Some of you reading this know him and love him for his tie-dye and Boone Dip and silly words, and Clemson orange pride, and his crazy math tricks, and his generosity and his Jagerbombs and his happy head-butts, and his bald head, and his musical talents on the drums and his karaoke skills. Others of you only know him because you know me and you know about our situation and marriage because of what I write and you know how much he loves me and how much our marriage is a testament to restoration and redemption and a sovereign God with a sovereign plan. All of you I hope will celebrate this man with me today and thank God for who he is in my life. Besides my salvation, he is the greatest gift in my life. You are loved Mr. Boone and I am so privileged to be your bride. Happy Birthday!

Garland of Grace

“Prize her, and she will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace her. “She will place on your head a garland of grace; She will present you with a crown of beauty.”Proverbs‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬

During my HOUR of uninterrupted quiet time at a retreat I went to recently, (what a gift to a mom of two littles!),  I found myself in front of the verse above. I couldn’t get away from it and continued to search it more and more. As a mom, as a wife, as a human being, doesn’t that sound enticing?? This garland of grace.

God gives us a garland of grace which is His wisdom. Wisdom found when we fill our hearts with His Word.

He gives grace to answer the hard questions. He gives grace to get up when we fail. He gives us grace to teach, instruct, and encourage our children and those around us we influence.

His garland of grace gives me wisdom in those moments when I’m not sure what to do when navigating parenting with my husband who is not a believer. Our world views are different. That can make it tricky BUT not impossible when parenting. So how does that work? It works by God’s grace. It works by seeking God’s wisdom. It works by being convicted from His Word and repenting when I totally let my pride and selfishness take over. It works by filling my head and heart with the Word of God, which became flesh, and revealed to us the magnificence and glory of our Creator. I can breath in the breath of life with each verse I read, with each truth I believe, and with each step forward in my faith as I trust Him and act on it. The “what would Jesus do” bracelets don’t quite get to the heart of what I need in those moment. Instead of what would Jesus do I need to remind myself who Jesus is. The way. The truth. The life. My redeemer who made a way for me to go to God and beg Him for understanding. His crown of thorns enabled, produced, secured, and guaranteed my garland of grace.

What ever it is you are struggling with, and can we admit, we are ALL struggling with something. Whatever it is… are you a single mom, do you not have a spiritual leader in your home, do you have a child who has turned away, do you have a difficult relationship to navigate, are you not sure how to disciple another women? Whatever it is, hold on to the garland of grace we are given as we look to His Word for our answer. Our answer isn’t a 3 step process, it isn’t a checklist, it isn’t bullet points on a page, it isn’t a detailed outline of how to exactly handle every situation. Our answer is searching the active and alive Word of God to seek His wisdom, His person, His nature, His characteristics, His grace, His mercy, His truths, so that the Holy Spirit can move in our hearts to CHANGE US in those moments when it’s hard. To GROW US in those moments when we hit a wall. To ENCOURAGE US when we feel we don’t have the strength to do this. This garland of grace is walking with God, washing our hearts and our minds in His Word, in such a way that our decisions we make are aligned with His will of humble service. This wisdom we are to be searching for like gold, we will find those nuggets and they’ll stay with us so in those moments when we don’t know what to do this garland of grace will help us. What we have discovered in His Word, what we have meditated on in our hearts, what we have let change us and shape us and mold us, that is what is going to help. Not just an article on “10 ways to be a better Mom…”. Not a checklist of do’s and don’ts. It’s knowing what to do because it is the Lord’s will.

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”Proverbs‬ ‭4:18‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Just as we are continually being sanctified, this wisdom grows in us until we will be FULLY glorified, in the presence of and worshipping our Savior. As He leads us on this path of righteousness and we search and live out His Word, it becomes more and more of who we are and how our heart responds to those around us.

That’s the kind of wisdom I want and that’s the kind of wisdom I need. Proverbs tells us that when we treat her like a treasure, when we treat her like a precision gift, we will receive her. The death and resurrection of Jesus for our sins is what enables us to go anywhere near this. We are able to be in God’s presence, we are able to hold His Word, to read it and to understand it and to see His love for us and have our love for him grow. That crown of thorns allowed for this to happen and that crown of thorns has led to us to be able to wear this sweet beautiful, powerful, helpful, needed, life changing, garland of grace given by His wisdom.

Christ gives His bride this crown of beauty to wear, as our lives bear fruit of the gospel, and as we live out His story through our testimonies and our sanctification.

“My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”Proverbs‬ ‭2:1-6‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Proverbs 2 tells us to receive it, treasure it, be attentive, cry for it, seek it, search for it, and we WILL discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God for the Lord gives wisdom.

Father we are crying out to you asking us to open up your Word in a mighty way. Help us to see in each moment of our day how we can be your humble servant, how we can pursue wisdom and righteousness by dying to ourselves and letting your wisdom and love take hold of each situation we face. Let us never take for granted how the cross enabled us to receive this garland of grace so that we can follow you, lay our lives down at your feet, and live out our salvation in such a way that is worthy of the calling you have set before us. Your grace is the only way we can do that. Help us to recall your Word, to receive and believe your love and mercy, and to walk in obedience throughout our day. Lord help us to keep our perspective and our gaze on you, not on us, not on our inconveniences, not on our story but on YOUR story and YOUR work and YOUR plan and YOUR sovereignty that we can trust. Help us to receive it, treasure it, be attentive to it, cry for it, seek it and search for it. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN.

The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding. “Prize her, and she will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace her.”Proverbs‬ ‭4:7-8‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Lifted Up

I had many preconceived notions before I began reading and studying the Old Testament. Ideas and opinions I had heard from others. That it was the difficult and hard to understand section of the Bible. That is was for more historical knowledge. That it had parts of it that were okay to skim right over (lists of names, lists of places, the non-“spiritual” stuff). That this is the part of the Bible where it is okay to pull out a motivational verse even if you don’t understand the  surrounding content. I’ve had several conversations with people the past few years where they have said they feel this is the section where God is “mean”, this is the part of the Bible that theologians need to study but not everyone has to. All of these false and deceptive influences on my mind kept me from the Old Testament. Until God showed me that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16-17‬)‬‬.

All scripture. So with this conviction to read and dig into the Old Testament I began a slow and eye opening journey into God’s Word that is yielding an overwhelming understanding of God’s love for me. I’ve heard some say the New Testament is where we read the gospel and as long as you get that and understand the gospel and the work of Jesus, then you are good. Yet without the Old Testament we can’t see the fuel behind this great act of sacrifice. The gospel fire blazes in the New Testament, it spreads like wildfire but the fuel behind it is God’s immense, never-ending, relentless, love and pursuit of His people. The Old Testament shows us from the first word that Christ was there! In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) and we know from John that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John‬ ‭1:1-3‬)‬‬. The Old Testament shows us God’s plan to save us from the moment sin entered our flesh and our hearts. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis‬ ‭3:15‬ ‬‬) Christ fulfilled this victory over Satan. As I read the Old Testament I see so much of the gospel story. More and more examples and glimpses of the gospel emerge. God is preparing His people and our hearts as we read it for the coming fulfillment of it all! I was reminded in a Bible study this month of one of my favorite passages in the Old Testament that showed us the coming of Christ as our Savior.

“From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.”(Numbers‬ ‭21:4-9‬)‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

When I first read this I remember crying. I was “getting” it finally. God was showing me the beautiful plan and story He was sharing with us in the Old Testament. Since the fall of man, we have been bitten by the fangs of sin, dripping with the venomous promise of comfort, fun, ease, and exaltation of self. This has made us slaves to pride and ego, making humility and trust foreign and unattainable, as the Israelites in this passage displayed. The bitten flesh leaves us with holes filling up with the poison of the world. But God made a way. Any part of us that is sick, ill, lacking or diseased (all of our heart!) can only be healed by the clean, pure, righteous blood of Christ. His blood replaces the poison running through our veins. His blood which was spilled when He was lifted high on the cross is the antidote to the lies and deception and lust and pride our flesh cries out for. We WANT the bite. We want to taste the rancid poison disguised in sweet treats and temporary fulfillment of our desires. Just like the Israelites in this passage though, God brings us to the point of repentance, admitting our sin, kneeling before the Lord asking for the way… The answer… Look to the Savior. When you see Him you will live. It’s that simple. We don’t have to write a dissertation on the cross. We look to Him and follow Him. We don’t have to memorize the Old Testament law. We trust Christ to fulfill it. We don’t have to strive and try our way into the grace of God. He gave us Christ. The free gift we are to simply trust as our Savior. Trust Him to get us out of the pit of sin laden serpents biting at our heels, tempting us to look away and trust our own desires and the world’s answers. Christ defeated our sin when He was lifted up on the cross!! We can be tempted but not slaves to it. We can be disobedient but not condemned when we know Christ as our Savior and God WILL complete the work He started in us. He will show us our sin, bring us to repentance, and lift our eyes back up to the one lifted up for us as we await His return and our eternity with Him.

The Old Testament has been a sweet time with my God. I am doing other Bible studies but when I get back to where I left off in the Old Testament Word I am always excited to see what I am going to learn about my Father. It has created an excitement in me, an anticipation. All of God’s Word should do that for us and it can! No matter where you are reading, it is the living Word of God!! If you ask Him, He will show you His splendor, His power, His place of safety, His character, His will, His wisdom and His love that is big enough for all the world, and intimate enough for you to personally know it. Let our mind and heart be filled with the whole of God’s Word so we can “let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the Lord our God, to walk in His statues and to keep His commandments…” (1Kings 8:61).