Today our family has the privilege of celebrating Elijah’s first birthday! First birthdays are always exciting, but this one holds special significance to us because twice in his short life, we thought we might lose Eljiah. If you haven’t heard it yet, here is the story behind Elijah’s name, shared at his baby dedication a couple of months ago.
A couple of weeks ago I celebrated my 28th birthday. Of course, birthdays are always a time to celebrate, but also a time to reflect. I went for a jog one day as my birthday was approaching, and on my way out of our driveway I passed some crocuses that had sprouted up in front of our house. It got me thinking about spring, and seasons, and life. I started to go through the whole “seasons of life” analogy in my head.
Spring is a time of new birth. The flowers spring up as the snow melts. The grass turns green again and the birds return from their winter vacations. There is a lot of rain and a lot of growth. There is Easter and all of the reminders of the new life we can have through Christ.
The spring of life is the season children are in. There is a lot of growth, lots of learning, and wonder, and messes, and fun. For those who grow up in a Christian home, this is when they first get to hear about Jesus and the new life they can have in Christ. There is so much activity during this season, and so much work, and so much to look forward to.
When Summer comes along, there’s lots and lots of sunshine. There are summer vacation plans, and beach outings, and work in the garden. There are flowers and animals everywhere you look. There are holidays and picnics, and lots and lots of baseball. Most people just love summer.
Summer in our lives is also full of life and busyness and fun. There are dreams to dream and work toward, there are years to look ahead to, and there are lessons in following the Lord. During summer most major life decisions are passed and we’re settling in to “normal”. For those of us blessed with children, these are the years we get to watch them be young, invest in our families, and enjoy the time we get to have living under one roof together.
Fall has always been my favorite season. Things cool down and slow down after summer activities wrap up. The leaves change into brilliant colors before falling off their trees. The harvest comes in and we get to celebrate with lots of good food and Thanksgiving.
In the fall of life we get to slow down a little (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking as I’m in toddler-season right now!). At least the busyness changes. We can enjoy the richness of our lives so far and thank God for the blessings we’ve enjoyed. For those following the Lord, there will hopefully be a harvest by now! A harvest of souls, led to Christ; a harvest of children turning into adults; a harvest of dreams saved for and fulfilled; and a harvest of the fruit of the Spirit in our own lives.
Then, there’s winter.
Now let me tell you, this is the part where I would often get stuck. I spent two years in Arkansas and the winters were dead, brown, and cold. I’ve spent many winters up North where the winters are bitter cold and bitter long. People seem grumpier, heat bills are higher, and my hands always get dry. Thinking about the end of my life as a winter season was just never appealing to me.
But as I was jogging and thinking on these things, I started to rethink winter. I decided instead to focus on the end of a calendar year. I LOVE the beginning of winter. It starts with the Thanksgiving feast and celebrations with the people we love most. Then there’s a whole month of excitement and build up toward Christmas: a celebration of Jesus come to us. There are quiet, snowy nights covered in the brilliant, glittering snow. There are festive days filled with Christmas music and Christmas baking. The house is decorated and everyone stays in more as the nights get darker sooner, but it gives me a good excuse to snuggle up and read quietly by the fireplace. Winter is peace and quiet, contentment and anticipation, fullness and joy.
Winter in our lives can be like that too. We enter a potentially quieter, stiller season. We can’t burn as much energy running around like we did in the summer, but we can learn and grow, and teach others. We can sit back and see the wonderful things God has accomplished in and through us. We can celebrate our walk with Christ and our anticipation of going home, going to meet Jesus.
I wrapped up these thoughts as I wrapped up my jog and walked back down the driveway to my waiting family. On the way inside I picked a crocus to put in a jar of water. Lydia, always full of questions, quickly inquired why I had picked a flower and I sat down to dinner to share with my family the thoughts I had during my jog. And I left that crocus sitting on the table as a reminder to enjoy this season as I celebrate another year.
Our family had a wonderful day celebrating Easter this weekend. In fact, we had such a nice day, I didn’t even think to take pictures. Sorry!
But, I do have something to share with you all today. 🙂
A couple of years ago, I used a picture book to teach Lydia about Easter. We looked at it every day for about a week and in the end, Lydia was able to use the book to tell me about Easter. Well, since Abby is now two and I thought it would be a good tradition to keep, we pulled out the same book and learned Easter again this year. I was hoping to capture Abby’s version, but it turns out she isn’t quite as eager to be videotaped or to share anything on demand. So instead, I have for you all, four-year-old Lydia’s version of Easter. And, just for fun, I’m posting her two-year-old version here too. Her voice was so high and cute!
Happy belated Easter everyone. He is risen!
When Lydia was a baby, I was a supermom. I did everything: kept the apartment spotless, hosted guests, tackled projects, learned new things, and spent time with my baby. Abby came along and our world was turned upside down with several weeks in the NICU that stressed us beyond anything we’d ever known before. It was horrible. So, when Abby came home from the hospital, I stubbornly thought I had to prove it’s easier to have two at home than to have one at home and one in the NICU. I tried to “do it all” again and be a good mom to both girls all at the same time.
Do you know how that went? I broke. I snapped. I realized that I was acting in pride and living a lie. When I started being honest with myself and others, I found a lot of freedom. Being a mom is HARD.
During my pregnancy with Paul I was praying for the transition to three, but also preparing myself to be overwhelmed.
It’s just a season.
The house will be messy at times (most of them!).
I won’t be able to do projects the way I used to.
Taking care of three will be almost all-consuming, but we’ll survive.
Do you know what happened? The transition was not nearly as difficult as I anticipated. We do survive. In fact, sometimes the house is tidy and clean (rarely). Sometimes I cook meals with side dishes (special occasions only). I still have a quiet time alone (although, at 5:45 AM). I teach the kids, play with the kids, read to the kids, and I still manage to clean the bathroom, change the sheets, and vacuum. I still have time to plan meals and cook them, spend time with Dan, and read books (grown up ones, even). But, it’s still hard.
I have sat down on various occasions to seek advice from more experienced moms, ones that I really respect. I think one of my favorite pieces of advice that I try to put into place daily was on how not to be overwhelmed.
One mom in particular told me about Susanna Wesley, mother to nineteen children (ten survived to adulthood), including two sons who eventually founded Methodism and wrote a lot of hymns still being sung today. As the mother of so many children, Susanna would get overwhelmed too. Then she would throw her apron up over her head to have a moment “alone” to pray for help.
Since the day I first heard about Susanna’s “apron prayers”, I’ve started to try to do the same, though, not with an apron since I rarely wear one. 🙂 Sometimes I go to my room, and sometimes I gather the kids around me and we pray together. Often I just stop whatever I’m doing, close my eyes, and let out a short, desperate, completely sincere prayer for help.
Well, last week I was encouraged when I was reading about King David and I saw him put the same tactic into practice.
David (not yet King David) had been running away from Saul for months and months. He hasn’t done anything wrong, and had, on several occasions, proved his loyalty to King Saul even while fleeing his persecution. Finally David fled to the Philistines and lived among them for over a year. One day he gathered his troops together and made a journey to help the Philistine’s fight their battles. However, the Philistine lords doubted David’s loyalty, so the king sent David and his men home. Bummer.
David and his men arrived back home only to receive devastating news. The city had been raided. Their homes had been burned down and their women and children carried away as captives.
As overwhelmed as I sometimes get as a mom, I can honestly say I’ve never had a day that bad. Can you imagine coming home only to find your house burned, your possessions destroyed or stolen, and your family kidnapped?
And what did David do? Well, he wept. I probably would too.
Things got worse for David when the people grew bitter against him. Then they started talking about stoning him. Do you know what happened next? (I love this part!)
“David strengthened himself in the LORD his God”.
“David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?”
God told David, “Yes”, to go pursue and overtake the band. David and his men pursued the band. They didn’t find it right away, but they found an Egyptian who pointed them in the right direction. Then David and his men went on to find the band, struck them down, and recovered “all that the Amalekites had taken”. When he got back home nothing was missing and no one was missing. With God’s help, David saved the day.
(See 1 Samuel 28 and 30)
So I’m no future king and my home isn’t being attacked and burned with fire, but I worship and follow the same God as David, and He is just as able and willing to help me with my little flock of Munchkins. Not only can I seek God for strength when I get overwhelmed, but I can also seek his direction in what to do in those moments when I’m tired and emotional and not sure what to do next.
I was going to post this last week but I just couldn’t get it to come out right. The next days were terrible. The kiddos were difficult and I was tired and overwhelmed. I realized God was not only preventing me from posting this in pride, but He was also giving me an opportunity to practice. (And I do need more practice.) But now a week later I can come more humbly and share the lesson I’m learning.
God hears us when we are overwhelmed (for big reasons or small). He wants us to come to him for help. He will strengthen us. And He can direct us in what to do next.
PS – For all you creative people out there who make words into pretty artwork, I think 1 Samuel 30:6 would totally make a mom-worthy print.
But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.
One year ago, on my birthday, I began a project I called “One Year of Thankful“. My 26th year had been tough. We moved a pile of times, endured unpleasant job changes, suffered through 12 unexpected weeks with a baby in the hospital, and were in the process of adjusting to having two kiddos at home. I was having a hard time, feeling down, getting angry, and realizing the lack of joy in my life. So I began this project: record one blessing a day and take a picture to go with it.
Now my “year of thankful” is complete. I’ve learned a few things along the way and I’ve enjoyed counting my blessings. I’ve learned that it’s not enough to pick one thing a day, an attitude of thankfulness has to be continuous. I’ve learned that blessings come in showers and sometimes there are droughts. At times I would have to choose between a number of blessings in a day. Other times I would go for days struggling to think of anything for my “thankful”.
As I was wrapping up my year, I thought it would be fun to go through my complete album to see what I was the most thankful for. I think this says something about my personality and it definitely says something about what I treasure in life. Here are my top ten:
10. Finding Things – Apparently I lose things somewhat frequently and really dislike it. Every time I find a lost item I have reason to rejoice.
Day 54 – I found my lost phone.
9. Nature and Beauty – From the beauty of freshly fallen snow, to a colorful sunset, to my favorite flowering trees, I love enjoying the beauty God has placed all around me.
Day 79 – Baby bunnies.
8. Relief from My Job – You don’t even know how many times I took pictures of dishes washed by someone other than me! Or sometimes it was folded laundry, someone to watch the kiddos, or a discovery that made my life easier. A break from the grueling task of “domestic engineer” frequently made my thankful list.
Day 216 – Having my parents here while Dan and I were at the hospital, being able to take it easy as the girls were cared for and all the dishes and laundry done.
7. Material Things and Comforts – Material things were often gifts and comforts often included warmth or sleep. I’m blessed with so many nice “things”: a house, clothing, all sorts of kitchen knick-knacks, and so many comforts like warm blankets, medicine when I’m sick, or the exercise ball that brought so much relief late in the pregnancy.
Day 71 – Nap time.
6. Love – Originally this was lumped under “Family and Friends”, but it came up so many times I gave it a category of its own. From date nights to flowers, love letters, and special chats with Dan, it’s clear that I enjoy any language of love from my husband.
Day 315 – My one and only Valentine.
5. Walking with God and Answered Prayers – This category skyrocketed late in my pregnancy with Paul. Every week was an answered prayer. But it wasn’t just weekly milestones that made the list. During some of the most pressing trials of the year God brought much peace, guidance, and comfort.
Day 348 – This moment. I thought it would never happen. Psalm 37:4
4. Quiet, Precious, and Meaningful Moments – I am a creature of habit. Special moments that we enjoyed every day (like breakfasting in the breakfast nook or snuggling with Lydia in the morning) often made my list. I’m also an introvert and any quiet or peaceful moments made it into my thankful album.
Day 82 – This Moment: Snuggled up with his girls.
3. Food and Fun Times – I was amused at how often food came up as my thankful for the day. Especially special occasion food (aka something with cheese) or fruit. Fun times were also a favorite, including family outings, trips up North, and weddings and showers.
Day 156 – Another perfect pre-baseball picnic.
2. Productivity – This one really surprised me. It’s back to those pictures of dishes I guess! The second most frequent thankful has something to do with making progress on housework, organization, research, or projects.
Day 233 – Finished!
1. Family and Friends – This one isn’t much of a surprise. Family and friends and the special moments we have together were the most common thankful by far. God has blessed me with many loved ones, but most frequent were my loving husband, and crazy kids.
Day 364 – Adding another little one to our family has only made me love them all more.
The past few weeks have been a little dreary around here. The temperatures have been very low. We’ve been down with colds and have had to stay home from church and Bible study. I’ve gone whole weeks without stepping foot outside, and sometimes life on the couch gets pretty dull.
Lately, however, things have been changing. The sun is shining in a way that feels like spring. Temperatures are above zero again and are expected to rise above freezing (at least occasionally) within a week. We are past the achy, stuffy, gloomy colds. I just saw a little bird land on a tree branch outside the window where I am typing this. And every morning is a small celebration that we have made it yet another day with Baby. As we enjoy the coming spring and delayed coming of Baby, I thought now would be a good time to do something I have been planning for a long while: Acknowledge Him.
In the fall, when we found out we were expecting Baby #3, I spent some good earnest time in prayer. I knew we would have medical decisions to make, medical bills to pay, and likely, weeks in the NICU to endure. As I poured this all out to the Lord, He brought a verse to my mind, and He has brought it to my mind over and over again throughout this pregnancy:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Today I’d like to “acknowledge Him”, that is, to publicly “pay attention” to some of the ways God has answered our prayers throughout this pregnancy (so far!).
Finding a Doctor
My last Doctor was good, but she retired. So, when we found out we were pregnant, we tried to set up an appointment with another doctor, recommended to us by a friend. No matter how many times, or what time of day, we tried to call, we just couldn’t get connected with this doctor. I was eager to get an appointment and hear a plan of action, and things just weren’t working out. Finally, as we prayed about it, we decided to set a deadline. If we couldn’t get an appointment scheduled by that Friday, we would go with another doctor (also recommended by friends). Friday came and went and there was no appointment.
Dan called Friday afternoon to try to schedule an appointment with our second-choice doctor and the receptionist answered and set up an appointment for the following Monday morning. As it turns out, this doctor has much experience with high-risk pregnancies and even women in my exact condition. His knowledge and experience have been so helpful, and we are grateful to be working with him.
19 Week Contractions
When I was 19 weeks along, we had Bible study at our house one night. During the singing I felt the somewhat familiar pain of a contraction. I immediately panicked and told Dan, who told me to go upstairs, lay down, and drink a lot of water. For a scary couple of hours I was afraid Baby was going to come that night. It was too early for Baby to survive, to early to do anything, really. The contractions kept coming, irregular but painful. I called a midwife friend of ours and she sweetly prayed with me and advised me to “drink some tea, take a warm shower, and go to bed early”. By the time I was ready for bed, the contractions had stopped and everything went back to normal. Probably, I was dehydrated. Whatever the cause, we are thankful that God was able to ease our fears and stop the contractions.
Flipping Breach Baby
For the first several months of pregnancy, Baby was breech at every single doctor appointment. As much as they say it’s not a concern, I was concerned. We reached a point when I started to worry that Baby wouldn’t flip. I had already been well informed women in my specific circumstances have a higher likelihood that Baby will be breech and need a c-section. And, for several reasons, I did not want another c-section. It was one of my greatest concerns for many weeks.
I started doing some “pregnancy exercises” intended to help Baby flip. Diligently I did my exercises every day. I prayed about it. I asked Dan to pray about it. I prayed with my Bible study ladies about it. Finally, after our big 20-week-ultrasound, I became convinced that Baby was just going to stay breech. I continued my exercises, half-heartedly, and informed Dan that we were probably going to have another c-section Baby. One evening I gave it all over to the Lord, surrendering myself to the truth: God could flip my Baby. If Baby was breech, God had a reason for it. I was still convinced that Baby was breech, but I thought it must be what God wanted.
A couple of nights later I was getting ready for bed when I suddenly felt led to do one particular exercise. I did, and a couple of minutes later I was reading in bed. But now I had a new peace about Baby. It was like I knew that Baby wasn’t going to be breech anymore. On top of that peace, I felt like I should stop doing my “baby flipping exercises”. It was over a week later when I had another ultrasound that we discovered Baby had turned head-down, and has stayed head-down every since.
All the Wrong Times for Baby to Come
There have been several days, even weeks, when we did NOT want Baby to come. My doctor was on vacation one week. Another week the weather was so bad we didn’t want to have to make any emergency drives to the hospital. Last week we were all sick. At another time Dan was working 12+ hour days trying to please his supervisors at work. On top of that, he was doing all the house work and sleeping very little. During each of these times, we have prayed, “Oh please, don’t let Baby come right now!”. And, as you all know, Baby didn’t.
Our 32 Week (and Other) Goal(s)
If you’ve been following this journey at all, you know I have set several goals. Every day is a goal. Every week is a bigger goal. There have been the age-of-viability, age-when-the-girls-were-born, and birth-of-my-nephews goals. My big goal all along was to make it past 32 weeks, and now we are! Each goal has been special for different reasons, and we are so excited for where we are now. We’re looking at a NICU stay of just a couple weeks or less (or none!). For the first time, I probably won’t be on any antibiotics or magnesium during labor. It’s likely that we’ll be able to (at least attempt to) have a natural delivery.
God has been walking this road with us, leading us really. He has answered our prayers day after day. I can’t say for certain that the rest of the our pregnancy, labor, and delivery will go the way I want or am expecting. But I can say that God has “made our paths straight”, and we are more than happy to give Him the glory for the things He has done.
Back in August I shared the story of our housing hunt. Today I’d like to share the story of our house.
It had been a long hunt so far when I started praying that we just wouldn’t even look at anymore until it was the “right one”. I was weary of getting my hopes up and then the crushing disappointment that usually followed: the house or neighborhood was no good, or someone else made a better offer.
There was a two-story home in a neighborhood that we liked so we went to go see it. The owners had kept it immaculate. Every inch was decorated to their style but, as they showed us around, it was hard to picture is as ours and not theirs. The price was within our range, but seemed high for the area. We prayed and talked about it. And we waited. We prayed more, talked more, asked our parents for advice. We walked around the neighborhood, talked to neighbors, and even went to look at it again.
It seemed like a good match. Everything in our minds said to go for it. I was desperate to finally end the hunt. But whenever we prayed, we felt unsure. It was confusing. Over and over we had prayed that when we found the right house we would know right away, and with this one we just weren’t sure. Again and again we tried to figure it out, but it just felt like God was giving us an unclear, “Maybe not.”
After a couple weeks with no changes and no new prospects, I started apartment hunting online. It just felt like we’d never find the right house. We still didn’t know if we should offer on the two-story, and we were waiting to see if maybe the price would come down. Then, one weekend, our Realtor took us to look at three more houses.
One was on a busy road. One was moldy-smelling and old. One was huge, but with a small yard. All were out of our price range. We prayed and again felt like God was saying, “Wait.”
At the end of the three viewings our Realtor asked me again what was wrong with the houses so far, what did I want that they didn’t have. I attempted to explain the things I wanted in a home, the most important things. Suddenly her face lit up as she said she had the home for us. We knew the owners, she told us, but she had to get their permission before telling us which house it was because it wasn’t even on the market yet.
Dan and I spent the ride home trying to guess who it could be. The next day he found out and emailed me. My first thought was, “I love that house, but Dan probably won’t want it.” To my surprise, he told me he had prayed and felt this might be our new house.
The next day we went for a visit and our friends showed us around. We loved it and had no question we wanted it to be our new home. The next weeks were so happy. We had found a house that we loved. It was bigger and more beautiful than anything we had expected to afford. It had a huge yard and was just down the road from a park. It was better than anything we had looked at so far and anything we had hoped or planned for.
Because the house wasn’t on the market yet, we were able to offer the asking price without any competition. The inspections and appraisals went forward and, after what seemed like a very long time to us, we closed on our own house.
Dan and I truly believe that, by praying about every home and trusting the Lord’s leading, God kept us from offering on the other houses because He had something better for us. And now we are enjoying the fruit of the waiting, the prayers, and the obedience, by getting settled in a house that really feels like a home. It’s not the starter house we had in mind. It’s a home we can imagine living in for a very long time.
I waited patiently for the Lord and He inclined to me and heard my cry.
During the four years that Dan and I have been married, we have gone through more trials than I ever would have imagined. I used to look up to people who went through hard times, thinking that the hard times would somehow instantly make them into patient, gentle, and incredibly godly people. I also used to rank “trials” by my understanding of their difficulty. I’ve learned, in the past years, that everyone goes through trials, and all trials are hard. It’s not up to me (or anyone else) to rank someone’s level of trials, but rather, to encourage and pray each other through them. And just because you are going through something hard doesn’t instantly make you a more godly person, although God can and often does use trials to sanctify us.
This past year has been especially full of various trials for us. As we have made our way through them I have often been discouraged by how ungodly my response has been. Patient? Gentle? Try angry and frustrated. I would desperately pray that God would use the situations for some good, because I certainly couldn’t see the good happening in my life.
I have been sick with about three viruses back-to-back during the past few weeks and have often found myself lying helplessly in bed while others take care of the dishes, laundry, and my girls. During one of those helpless moments, I started to reflect on how I have changed during the past six months, and I was blessed to see that God was indeed using the trials to teach me some good things, and to change me in some good ways.
I’m sure there are some out there reading this who are going through their own difficulties. I hope that you may be encouraged by my sharing some of the ways God has used trials to change me this year.
I have been humbled.
Before Dan and I got married I was convinced that I was better. I was a better wife. I was a better mom. All of these moms that were overwhelmed or frustrated, I would not be one of those. After Lydia was born I started a schedule. I kept things clean and got things done. And I stubbornly held on to my expectation that I would always be in control.
Once Abby was born, all of that fell apart. I have learned that I don’t need to be the best. In fact, it is far better to be humbled because then you can ask others for help, encouragement, advice, and prayer. This summer I have gone to moms asking their advice or just asking for prayer (or a hug!) more often then ever before. There is no reward for those who have it together. Those who are broken and humble will be blessed.
I am at a point now where I try, but know I can’t do it all. I can’t be a perfect wife or mom. I can’t do everything I want to do. I have to sacrifice and prioritize and ask God and Dan what things to let go. Then I have to be ok with messes, ok with unfinished projects, and ok if I never learn to do all the things I want to. And I am at a point where I have no idea how other moms do it with more than two kids! But I’m also at a point where I am open to learn willing to make mistakes as long as I am doing my best to fulfill God’s calling on my life.
I have cried out to God.
I have cried out to God many times in my life, but never quite like I have in the past year. I specifically remember one evening when Abby was still in the hospital. It was dark and raining and we were riding in the car. No one was talking. I was crying, feeling completely hopeless. All I could pray was, “God, help me.” over and over again. I didn’t even know what I needed or how God could help, and I didn’t have the strength to think of anything else to pray. And it seemed like no answer came.
Sometimes in moments like that, things have felt so dark, God has felt so far away, that I haven’t wanted to tell anyone about it. It felt like God was failing. It felt like I had to make God look better than I thought He really was.
Sometimes people have commented on God’s faithfulness or answered prayers with Abby in the hospital and I have smiled and nodded and thought, “I don’t see it.” I would pray, “God, people are watching. Show Yourself strong!”, but He wouldn’t answer, wouldn’t show up in any way that I could see.
So why do I share all of this now? It turns out that I’m not the first person in history to struggle in times of trial. (Read Psalms) By faith, I know that God heard my prayers and was even carrying us along, though I couldn’t see it at the time. But, through it all, through the darkest moments, I have cried out to God. Even when I thought it was hopeless and He wasn’t listening, I cried out to Him because He was all I had to cling to.
And when all hope did seem lost and I felt I was just getting depressed and angry, I would pray, “God, keep me close to You whatever it takes. Even if You have to drag me kicking and screaming, keep me close to You. And make me more like Jesus.”
And do you know what? Through it all, He has.
I have learned to cling to scripture.
There have been plenty of times when doubts and lies have filled my mind.
“I’m suffering and no good is coming from it.”
“This is all ruining our family and making me a worse person.”
During those times I have stubbornly read and re-read various verses and clung to them desperately.
“tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
“the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
I would cling to those scriptures and others and declare to myself, “It’s true. It says that. It must be true!” And I would declare to God, “You said it God, I’m going to believe it!”
I long for heaven.
A month or so ago I memorized Revelation 21. When I was stuck in bed sick I would find my mind wandering to heaven. I would imagine the wedding banquet. I would imagine a heavenly choir welcoming the saints in with celestial music. I would imagine what the holy city would really look like. I would think about eating the fruit from the tree of life while walking on the new earth and talking to Jesus face-to-face. I know my imagination falls far short of the glory and reality of heaven, but the point is, I actually think about it now.
I actually look forward to heaven. I look forward to an end to sin and suffering. I look forward to when God will wipe away every tear. There will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying and no more pain.
(And as a small bonus, there will be no more night. This can only lead a sleepy mommy to assume that there will be no more tiredness because there will be no more need for sleep.)
What is coming next?
Sometimes there is a cynical part of me that wonders, “What’s next?”. We are planning to close on our new house in six days and move in shortly after. Then what? What trials will God bring next? I try to correct myself and remember that God works things together for good. He’s not out to get us and make our lives miserable. And even when trial after trial comes our way, God still offers joy for His children. He is good, isn’t He?
Go, then, earthly fame and treasure!
Come, disaster, scorn, and pain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure;
With Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee Abba, Father!
I have stayed my heart on Thee.
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather,
All must work for good to me.
Man may trouble and distress me,
’Twill but drive me to Thy breast;
Life with trials hard may press me,
Christ will bring me sweeter rest.
O ’tis not in grief to harm me,
While Thy love is left to me;
O ’twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.
(From the hymn: Jesus I My Cross Have Taken)
Today Dan and I are celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary. Dan took a few days off of work, and, as I mentioned in the last post, we have a lot of fun planned. So, I’m not making any promises about when the next update will come. In the meantime, I’d like to celebrate this fourth anniversary by sharing four things my husband does for me, four things every husband should do for his wife.
He loves me.
I have a problem. We call it the “goldfish syndrome” and I’ve read enough marriage books to know I’m not the only wife who has it. No matter how creatively, lavishly, romantically, or frequently Dan tells me he loves me, I forget.
It’s not always that I forget. The problem is really that I stop feeling loved and so I start to believe I’m not. Or sometimes I know that Dan loved me…at one time, but what if it changed? What if he stopped? So Dan has his work set out, but he is constantly, faithfully, patiently reminding me of his love for me.
He leads me.
I really enjoy having Dan as a leader in our home. It has become my second nature to ask his opinion on everything. Picking out fabric for Abby’s quilt? I asked Dan’s opinion. (He picked out the backing) Trying to figure out a new schedule? Ask Dan. Feeling like I’m doing a bad job at keeping a home and raising the girls? Go to Dan and get some input.
But it’s not just when I ask that Dan leads. He leads us in so many areas of our lives.
Spiritually – he reads the Bible to us after our meals and prays with me every night before we go to sleep
Financially – he earns us a living even on days when he would rather do anything but go to work
Emotionally – he holds it together when everything else seems to be falling apart
Decision Making – he always gets the final say, although he appreciates my input, he’s not afraid to make the call
As a Dad – Dan doesn’t just leave me to raise our kiddos. Even when they are less than four pounds and growing in an isolette in the NICU, Dan is a present and loving father (and a really good one too)
There are so many ways Dan is a leader in our home, I couldn’t list them all if I tried.
He helps me.
Maybe if I was perfect I could do it all. Manage and keep a beautiful home (all the time). Teach and train the girls. Feed and diaper the baby. Clean and fold laundry. Plan and cook meals. Keep track of our budget and all our finances. Correspond with friends and relatives. Plan doctor visits, vacations, and dates. Exercise and get plenty of rest. Even while kids are sick, babies aren’t sleeping, and we live in transitional sorts of places.
Since I’m not perfect, I can’t do it all by myself, and even when I seem to be accomplishing a lot, I’m known to have occasional break downs. But Dan doesn’t expect me to be perfect or self-sustaining. He helps me do my job as I help him do his. We’re spouses, but we’re also partners, teammates, and friends.
He spurs me on.
Dan and I first started talking at a time when I was discouraged and far from home, but learning good things from God. He started emailing me once in a while to encourage me, pray for me, and ask what God was doing in my life. My God’s grace, Jesus has stayed the center of our relationship through all of the transitions and changes over the past four (plus!) years. Dan is the one I go to first with my Bible questions, thoughts, and troubles. We pray together and seek God together. He’s my husband, and he’s my leader. He’s my helper and my friend, but he’s also my brother in Christ and always will be.
Last night, after Lydia was all tucked into bed, I heard her crying, “I don’t want to be snuffly. I don’t want to be snuffly!”. This morning she assured me that she was no longer “snuffly” because she was only snuffly when she was sleeping.
In case you don’t speak “Lydia”, allow me to translate. We’re sick. Snuffly-gooby-runny-nose-sick. So, rather than write an Abby update today, I’ll postpone that for when she’s looking a little less…snuffly. But in the meantime, I’ll share some encouraging and though-provoking quotes that I’ve read lately on the topic of difficult circumstances.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”
“If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem to be against us, we do not believe Him at all.”
“God’s ways of answering His people’s prayers is not by removing the pressure, but by increasing their strength to bear it.”
“O Lord, by all thy dealings with us, whether of joy or pain, of light or darkness, let us be brought to thee. Let us value no treatment of thy grace simply because it makes us happy or because it makes us sad, because it gives us or denies us what we want; but may all that thou sendest us bring us to thee, that, knowing thy perfectness, we may be sure in every disappointment that thou art still loving us, and in every darkness that thou are still enlightening us, and in every enforced idleness that thou art still using us; yea, in every death that thou art still giving us life, as in his death thou didst give life to thy Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”