Life is racing on in the Taylor household. We are busy with a lot of spring projects, and, of course, all three Munchkins. Lately I have been relearning the endless lessons of having patience and keeping the right priorities. It seems like I’m hit at least weekly with some sort of good reminder to slow down (let the laundry wait a day sometimes) and soak up some serious kiddo time. This was my reminder last night. Encouraging all you busy mamas to slow down, skip a blog post today ;-), and enjoy some kiddo time.
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.
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.
For Christmas my sister and brother-in-law gave Lydia some beads and stretchy string to make jewelry. After we got back from our trip up North, I spent a couple of days helping her make necklaces and bracelets. She made some for herself, some for Abby, and I made one for Lydia too. I was soon all beaded out.
One day Dan sat down with Lydia and she decided to make a necklace for me. Dan helped and soon I was presented with a small collection of mismatched beads on a string. Of course, I wore it all day and then left it sitting on my dresser when I went to sleep that night.
Fast forward a day or two. Our morning was not going well. Lydia was being difficult and I was getting frustrated. After yet another episode with lots of whining and crying and poor behavior (on both sides), I stomped upstairs to give myself a time out. I was near-tears-frustrated and knew I needed to cool down before having a talk with Lydia. As I sat on my bed and fumed, I started to pray, but I just couldn’t seem to calm myself down.
I glanced up and decided to get ready for the rest of the day, but something on my dresser caught my eye.
“Oh great”, I thought to myself, “the girls got into my stuff and broke one of my necklaces”. I, still angry, stood up and walked over to the dresser to assess the damage. There, lying on the wooden dresser was my necklace from Lydia.
Tears came to my eyes (again) and sentimental music started playing in my head as I slowly picked up the necklace and stared at it in my hand.
My anger was gone and the day was saved. My sweet baby girl, who is still far too young to control herself of her emotions the way I should be able to, loved me enough to want to make this for me. Even though I blow it. Even though I get angry.
Just then I heard my Little Munchkin, my Gooselett, my daughter, climbing the stairs cheerfully, fully recovered from <her meltdown. I put the necklace on and resolved to do my best to make the day a good one, a memorable one. For her.
Daily Bread. It’s a phrase I’ve heard so many times that I hardly think about it anymore. However, yesterday as I was reading to the girls, I was struck anew with an ancient truth.
So there we were, sitting around the breakfast table, when I pulled out the giant story Bible we’ve been reading. The title of the story for the day was “Manna from Heaven”. In case you don’t know, or don’t remember the story, you can look it up in Exodus 16. God’s people are wandering in the wilderness and they’re hungry. They complain and God gives Moses the plan for what’s to happen next. He sends bread from heaven with the morning dew. Each day the people are supposed to collect enough food for the day, no more and no less. The next day God sends the bread again. And again. On the sixth day, the people are told to gather twice as much as they need for one day, because the next day is a day of rest and there won’t be any new manna. Some people do as they are told, but some don’t trust God. They gather more than enough manna (or they gather just enough but don’t eat it all) and they save some for the next day. In the morning it stinks and it’s full of worms. Then Day Six rolls around and, again, some of the people do as they are supposed to and others disobey and only collect enough for one day. The seventh day comes and those who didn’t collect extra just don’t have any food. The ones who saved their extra overnight wake up to find it not stinking and not full of worms this time. When I read this story I often wonder if it’s the same people who disobey God in each incident or if it’s different people – the ones who don’t trust God to provide again, the ones who don’t trust God to keep His word, or maybe some who are just bad at listening to directions.
God still provides for His people. Sometimes it’s money. He provides enough for everything He wants us to have, no more, no less. When Dan was in school we didn’t have a lot of money. We lived on what we had and God took care of us. When He got his first “real” job, we were so excited about the huge increase in our income. Then we had to move out of cheap, subsidized, campus housing and into a condo in Ann Arbor. That hurt the freshly filled bank account. Then came medical bills with our second baby. That hurt too. For a while I was a little down about that.
“Just when we start making a little more, then all these bills come in and it’s all gone.”
But God showed me differently. He had provided two days worth of manna for the time when we would need it. “Just before the bills came in, God gave us more so that we would be able to pay them.”
It has happened again and again in our lives, and not just with money. Sometimes it’s other material things. Sometimes it’s feeling God’s presence or getting time alone with Dan or having some peace in our home before something crazy happens. No matter what, He just wants us to trust that He will provide what we need, when we need it, but no more and no less. And, at least in my experience, He tends to provide in such a way and in such timing that keep me dependent on Him.
If God is truly the God of our lives, our time, our bodies, and our bank accounts, it’s also important that we ask Him how to be spending these things.
A couple of months ago Paul was about to run out of clothes. He was getting bigger and we just didn’t have any bigger boy clothes. Most of our baby clothes (we have half a room full right now!) are pink and purple with bows and ruffles. We could have run straight to the store and picked out some really cute baseball-themed pajamas, but one of us had the idea to pray and ask God first. So we did, We prayed something like, “God, our money is yours. If you want us to go buy clothes for Paul we are happy to do so, but if you want us to use this money for something else, please provide the clothing he needs”. Then we waited.
A couple of weeks later we took a trip up North. Dan’s mom surprised us with a dozen like-new garage sale outfits for Paul, in the right sizes. My mom surprised me with a trip to Kohl’s and treated the kids and me to a new outfit each. On our way home, one of our dear friends handed over two diaper boxes full of little boy clothes. The picture up above is of Paul on our walk this morning, decked out entirely in clothing that was given to us by a family from church, my mom, Dan’s mom, and one of our friends.
I used to think that God only provided for people who didn’t have enough. I thought that anyone who had a large enough income was already provided for by their job, that they should thank God for their job and budget away. I have recently been realizing that there is far greater blessing in asking God how we should use our resources and then being obedient. Then He will provide the manna we need for one day, or two days, but no more and no less.
Dan and I recently celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. As we pass the five-year mark, several of our friends and acquaintances are starting families of their own. Some of them have cute little kiddos running around already, and I love to watch them grow up through the Facebook pictures and posts. But as time goes on, more of our friends are also losing their precious babies. It’s so hard to watch. I don’t know what to say or do, and my heart just breaks over their losses. It’s hard to understand, and hard not to ask, “why?”. No parent should have to say goodbye. No parent should have to bury a child. All we can do is pray and trust and let our hearts break for them.
Our hearts are breaking. What’s more is that we’re losing children too. According to the most conservative numbers I could find, more than two babies are being aborted every minute. Some of you are right here with me. You’re hearts are breaking too. The numbers make you sick to your stomach, and you don’t understand how this is being allowed to go on. Others of you are thinking about closing this page or skimming the rest of this post. “Oh, she’s just talking about abortion. That’s different.”
Is it different?
What’s the difference between the loss of my friends’ babies (anywhere from just a few weeks along in the pregnancy to several days old) and the loss of an aborted baby, really?
I see abortion from a slightly different perspective than many. My first two children were born several weeks early and had to spend weeks on the neonatal intensive care unit. They couldn’t breathe on their own. They couldn’t eat or keep themselves warm. They couldn’t even cry. When I see images of a tiny little baby in the womb, I see my baby girls after they were born and learning to survive. When I hear about some of these late-term abortions I think, “That could have been my baby”.
Did you know a baby has a heart beat just four weeks after conception? Think of it! Four weeks and the little guy already has a beating heart! My babies had heart beats before I even knew I was pregnant. Nine week old babies have been observed swallowing, sucking their tiny little fingers, and yawning. Ten weeks into the pregnancy a baby’s vital organs are already starting to function and the baby will respond to touch. Although doctors and scientists disagree about when, at some point between 8 and 20 weeks (gestations at which abortion is still legal), babies start to feel pain.
The question that begs answering is this: are these little ones human beings? At what point do their lives deserve the right to be protected by the laws of our nation?
I know there are horrible situations everyone wants to consider first. What about rape? What about incest? What if the mother’s life is in danger? But before you can figure out what to do in those terrible situations, you must answer the question: is that little one a human being? (And perhaps it would be helpful to mention that the vast majority of abortions are NOT being done in situations of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother).
Why isn’t that little nine-weeker who can suck his thumb considered a human? Why aren’t we protecting the life of the ten-weeker whose organs are all functioning and who can react to touch and, yes, feel pain. You see, again I come at this from an interesting perspective. My daughters couldn’t survive outside of me after they were born without drastic and immediate medical help. Were they human? And what about Paul? He was 35 weeks and was even able to come home with us, but some 35 week babies still need time in the NICU. Are they human? The youngest preemie on record to survive was born at just 21 weeks and 6 days. Was she human?
Did you know that whether a child can survive outside of mom, or the moment a mom first feels Baby move are very dependent on things like race, gender, and birth-order? Should your race, gender, or birth-order play in to the time when we start protecting a human’s life? Maybe simply being born is what makes someone a human with rights, but how does it make any sense at all that a person’s location determines their humanity? One moment the baby can be legally aborted and two centimeters later the baby becomes a human life worth saving?
You see, it doesn’t work. We can’t take a baby at one point and declare him or her as non-human or without rights and one moment later declare that he or she suddenly is human and has rights. Ultrasounds have allowed us to see too much, to know that the little babies who are legally allowed to be aborted are not so different before they are born as we might have previously thought. Maybe by declaring one baby as human and another as “just a fetus” we are stepping into a role far too important, too sacred for us to fill. And by allowing that baby to be killed, to step aside and let this continue to happen, maybe we are covering our own hands with the blood of helpless and vulnerable victims who themselves have done nothing wrong.
It’s easy to talk about abortion as a medical procedure involving the removal of some tissue, but when you actually stop and consider what’s happening the picture isn’t so pretty. Take a moment and think about the little baby with fingers and eyes and a beating heart, developing safely in his Mommy’s womb and then let the reality of what abortion is really sink in. There are two general types of abortion: at-home (medical) abortions and in-clinic (surgical) abortions.
For an at-home abortion, medicine is given which causes the lining of the uterus wall to break down, essentially causing the baby to suffocate or starve to death. Then a second pill is given which causes contractions and forces the baby out of the uterus in a process that can take anywhere from a few hours to several days. This method can only be used in pregnancies less than nine weeks along.
For pregnancies that are further along, there are several different methods. The two most common are aspiration and D&E (dilation and evacuation). Aspiration is when a small tube is inserted into the uterus and sucks the baby out of the uterus. Dilation and evacuation is usually performed in pregnancies past the first trimester. The cervix is dilated and then a combination of tools are used to cut apart and remove the baby with suction and/or forceps.
You see, abortions aren’t pretty. Our society tries to make them look that way by using big medical terms or vague language. The truth is, abortions involve a lot of cramping, blood, bones, and body parts. It’s because the “embryonic tissue” that is being “removed” is not just a clump of cells but a living human being. That “pregnancy” is really a baby.
Over the past several weeks The Center for Medical Progress has been releasing videos revealing that women’s health care and abortion provider, Planned Parenthood has been illegally selling body parts of aborted babies.
I encourage you to watch these videos. They are available in both edited and unedited versions.
If you choose not to watch the videos, here is a brief overview of the ones that have been released so far:
#1: National leader of Planned Parenthood discusses the sale of aborted baby organs and tissue
#2: Planned Parenthood official haggles over the prices for aborted baby body parts and at one point appears to be suggesting that the abortion procedure could be altered to preserve organs and tissue
#3: Graphic footage of a Planned Parenthood technician sorting through baby body parts collected after an abortion
#4: Doctor negotiates sale of body parts and suggests ways to avoid legal consequences
#5: Another graphic scene sorting through aborted baby parts, director of research for a Planned Parenthood in Houston affirms that abortion procedures can be modified to get more intact tissue and organs
#6: A former technician reveals that patients were encouraged to sign fetal consent forms but sometimes the aborted baby organs were sold without the consent of the mother
#7: Includes story of harvesting an intact brain from a late-term male baby whose heart was still beating after the abortion procedure
#8: StemExpress (which buys and resells aborted baby parts from Planned Parenthood) admits that Planned Parenthood sells fully intact aborted babies
#9: Again admits that sometimes Planned Parenthood sells fully intact aborted babies
#10: Planned Parenthood leaders discuss the lengths they would go to hide their selling of baby body parts and the public relations nightmare that would occur if the information was leaked
Whether you watch the videos or not, I urge you to again consider the question: when does a baby become “human”?
When should a human’s “right to life” be protected by law?
Should our tax dollars be going to a company that has been selling aborted baby body parts and bodies?
Unplanned pregnancy can be scary. Having a baby is hard. Most of the pregnancies in our country are unplanned. But, if you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, or know someone who is, you have options. Even if you can’t care for the little baby growing inside of you, families all over America are eagerly waiting for a baby they can adopt. I literally know a church full of families that would welcome your baby into their home. Your baby may not have been planned, but your baby is loved and wanted and needed in this world. Find and visit or call your nearest pregnancy care center. Please feel free to contact me as well.
Maybe you are one who would never personally choose abortion, but you don’t feel you can impose that belief on others. I recently heard one of the presidential nominees share how he used to hold that view, but he went on to say this: “I began to think if abolitionists a long time ago began to think that ‘I don’t believe in slavery, but anybody else can do it if they want to,’ where would we be today? So that changed my opinion of a lot of things.”
Maybe, as you read this and other information about abortion in our country today, you are thinking, “What can I do about this?” Know that no matter what situation you are in, there are several things you can do to help.
The first thing you can do is PRAY. Pray that abortion will end in our nation. Pray for women in crisis situations, that they will choose life for their unborn babies. Pray that our country will start to value life at all stages. Often as I pray for our country, I read the repentant prayer of Daniel for his own nation. It’s remarkable how well this prayer fits the state of our own country if you just change the Israel’s to America’s. The big difference is that Daniel’s nation had already fallen under God’s judgement.
You can also sign the petition to defund Planned Parenthood. Did you know that your tax dollars are going to support Planned Parenthood? That doesn’t have to be the case. Sign the petition, or, better yet, write your representative an email (good), give them a phone call (better), or send them a letter (best, bonus points if it’s hand written) explaining why you don’t want your money going to support an organization that is responsible for providing one-third of the abortions in our country and has been exposed to be selling the aborted babies’ body parts.
You can also volunteer your time at a local Pregnancy Resource Center, show love to a single mom, or donate to programs like Option Ultrasound (providing ultrasound machines to Pregnancy Resource Centers to encourage women to choose life).
I recently learned about a biannual event called 40 Days for Life, a community-based campaign to end abortions. The next 40 Days for Life campaign starts on September 23 (that’s next week). There are a few ways you can get involved. First you can commit to pray and fast. Second, you can sign up to go and pray outside your local Planned Parenthood. For 40 days, this organization tries to have a round-the-clock presence outside of Planned Parenthood constantly praying. Third, you can participate in their neighborhood outreach.
Since I’m still nursing Paul, I’m not really up for fasting for 40 days, but I’m planning to fast from a couple of my favorite staples as I pray with my family during the campaign. I encourage you to look up your nearest 40 Days for Life campaign location and get involved in the coming weeks (some are having a kick-off prior to the actual start of the campaign, so don’t wait until the last minute if you want to get involved).
May I make one request? I would be so encouraged to hear what others are doing, whether it’s praying, volunteering, donating, fasting, or contacting a representative. Or maybe there’s something I haven’t even listed. Leave a comment below and let me know. That would really make my day.
William Wilberforce was a key leader in the movement to end Slavery in England. He presented his Abolitionist Bill to the House of Commons for the first time by speaking on the horrors of slave trade for three hours. He ended the speech by telling the crowd, “having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know”. As many others have, I want to echo that statement today.
If you’ve made it this far in a very lengthy post (or if you’re just skipping to see how it ends), I urge you one last time to consider the questions,
Are these little ones human beings?
At what point do their lives deserve the right to be protected by the laws of our nation?
And what are you going to do about it now?
All of the photos used in this post are of my own daughters, except for the last one. The final picture is a screen shot taken from the fifth Planned Parenthood video. It is the hand of an aborted baby held up by a pair of tweezers.
For several weeks now, Lydia has wanted me to snuggle with her at night. After we tuck her in and say goodnight she cries out earnestly, “Mommy, will you snuggle me?”. It’s often late and there is always much to do. I need to go downstairs, wash dishes, clean the dining room, pack Dan’s lunch, wash diapers, feed Paul, sometimes go for a run, and on a good night, spend a little time with Dan. Oh, and we try to get to bed early ourselves. The members of this family need their sleep.
But I usually try to rest with Lydia for just a little while. It’s never long enough for her, but at least it’s a little time with Mommy before the last “goodnight”. Saying, “goodnight” is always a challenge for Lydia.
A couple of weeks ago I had a hard day. It was the sort of day that leaves me worn out before lunch time, and ready to cry by nap time. By the time Dan came home from work we were all a mess, Mommy, the worst, was tired and emotional. I had already given myself a time-out earlier in the day to take a few minutes alone in my room to pray and think and try to be calm and practical instead of irritable and emotional.
Something happened, I don’t remember what, but I timed myself out again, after sending Lydia to her room to wait for me. She must have done something wrong and it sure seemed like a big deal at the time, but it must not have been anything too serious or surely I would remember what it was today.
Well I was a mess. I was frustrated with Lydia, frustrated with myself, and crying like a three-year-old having a temper tantrum. It is not good when you act younger than your children and you’re trying to parent! So I took my time-out and prayed, “God help! I’m a mess! What should I do?”. And the answer came:
“Ask for forgiveness”.
So I did. I went into Lydia’s room and told her I was sorry for getting frustrated and emotional, asking her to forgive me. We talked for a while. I cried. She told me she loved me. I asked for a hug.
I needed a hug.
She gave me a hug and then waited while I held on. After a short while she asked, “Mommy, why are you still hugging me?”
That caught me by surprise. I needed a snuggle and Lydia always wants snuggling, so I told her, “Mommy needs to snuggle right now. Will you snuggle me?”
“Ok, but only for a little while”.
“What?” My little girl didn’t want to snuggle? “Why only for a little while?”
“We have to go eat dinner soon”.
In that moment, I saw what I’d been doing to my daughter. As emotional and worn out as I was, I really felt like I needed to be held and loved by my daughter. How many nights had she expressed the same urgent need to be loved and snuggled by me, and I had said, “Ok, but only for a little while”? How many times had she graciously agreed to “just a little” snuggling so I could hurry off and do my chores.
That day, Lydia snuggled me, probably for longer than “just a little while”. And that night, I snuggled her back. Now I make it a bigger priority to snuggle with her at night for more than “just a little while”. I try not to rush off too soon. And if Lydia falls asleep before I get to snuggle her, I sneak into her room and give her a short snuggle. Not because she asks for it, and not because she’ll even know I came. Just because I love her.
For the past several years I have been haunted by a strange fear. The strange thing about it is that this fear always grips me just as I’m waking up from a nap. In that short amount of time when I am waking up from sleep, starting to remember where I am but not really conscious enough to control my thoughts or actions, the truth hits me like a bucket of ice cold water: I am going to die. Someday, sooner or later, I am going to die. In that conscious moment before I fully wake up, I know that heaven is for real, but so is hell, and one day I will go to one or the other.
Now, there is another reason why this fear is strange for me. When I was a very little girl, not much older than Lydia really, I learned about heaven and hell. Afraid of going to hell when I died, I asked Jesus to save me from my sins and began in a childlike way to try to live for and please Jesus. My belief wasn’t perfect, but I do believe that even as a little girl with very little knowledge, God saved me and began to change me too.
Yet, for the past several years I’ve been haunted by this fear. It’s so intense, so very real and so very dreadful. But, what’s baffled me for so long is the question: why am I still afraid?
I have tried to respond to this fear appropriately. I’ve prayed and prayed, talked it over with Dan, and tested myself to see if I really am “in the faith” (1 Corinthians 13:5) only to conclude over and over again that, yes I am. I am led by the Spirit of God. I am becoming more like Him day by day. I am depending on Him as my hope for eternity. And yet, many days after my nap, I wake up with that terrible, sometimes nearly overwhelming fear. Why?
When Dan and I were first married, we read a book aloud together called Justification and Regeneration. It sounds old and boring, but it really isn’t. The author writes this paragraph that has always stuck in my mind:
Imagine two bridges crossing a chasm: One is very weak and untrustworthy, the other is very strong. A man may have a very strong faith in the weak bridge and confidently step out onto it. His strong faith will not keep him from plunging to his death. On the other hand, a man may have a very weak faith in the strong bridge and only barely manage with fear and trembling to venture forth upon it. The bridge will hold him securely, regardless of his weak faith. All that is necessary is for him to have enough faith to get him onto the bridge!
I love that quote. It has stuck with me for so long, because I feel like that man. I am the fearful man slowly crawling on all fours across that bridge, though I don’t need to be fearful at all because the bridge is very strong. For a long time I thought that maybe this was why I was still afraid of death in a way that seemed to be completely out of my control.
Several weeks ago I had another one of my episodes, waking up after a nap terrified of death. I was able to get up, move on, and forget for a while. But that night as I lay in bed I prayed through everything all over again and I suddenly was given a different reason for my reoccuring fear. I cannot keep this to myself.
There is a connection between my haunting fear and God’s command for me to share His truth. I realize this blog post is anything from a lighthearted story or page full of cute pictures of my little Munchkins. I realize, though sadly, that there are some who normally read my blog who won’t even make it this far because this is not what they want to read about today…or ever. The shy, people-pleasing part of me wants to preface this post: Please don’t get angry! Please, oh please, don’t leave nasty comments or stop talking to me because of this. I really don’t even want to write about something so heavy. But love and fear and Truth compel me to share this, even though in many ways, I’d rather keep it to myself.
I will die someday. You will too. And suddenly in that moment when your life is over you will be hit with the terrible and awesome reality that you will have to stand before an Almighty God and answer for your sins. Just think about it for a while. Just sit and think about that moment when it’s too late to change your mind, when your philosophizing will mean nothing, and you will stand before God and you will have to answer for your life. Does it scare you? Or are you ready?
The only way you can be ready at all is to trust in Jesus, that Strong Bridge, to be your goodness and your hope for salvation. No other bridge will hold your weight no matter how confidently or carelessly, or even politically correct..ly…you walk across it.
And, friend, if you do believe in Jesus, I challenge you as I have been challenged many times before and now in this new way, are you telling others? It is not ok to coast through this life trusting in Jesus for yourself, posting happy pictures of your cute little family and keeping to your own happy routine within your own four walls. It is not ok for me to coast through my happy life posting pictures of my Munchkins and just keeping to myself and my own little family.
I realize that God won’t let me keep it to myself. Even if that means waking me up from my naps terrified of the reality of my coming death and judgement, God won’t let me keep Him to myself.
Now I’m coming to the end of this post, one I have honestly been avoiding for quite a while, and I feel like my words just can’t express the earnestness of my desire to share this in a way that will get through to you. In love and sincerity and urgency I ask you to take some time today to think about this brief life and your position before God. Think about eternity and imagine how real it will all be, how real, in fact, it is. And ask yourself and ask God if you are really ready. And if you are, ask yourself if you will be ready on that day to see the ones you love most, and even the ones you hardly know at all. Will you be ready for some of them not to be ready, knowing that at least you did your part in sharing with them that great and wonderful good news that there is hope for a happy eternity only in Jesus Christ.
“The bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. Some have been the chief of sinners and some have come at the very last of their days but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support. It will bear me over as it has for them.”
This is the view from my bedroom window. In fact, this is the exact view I see when I’m resting with my head on my pillow at nap time. A few days ago I was getting ready for my afternoon nap. The girls were settling down in their room and Paul was sleeping a few feet away from me in his bassinet, but I couldn’t fall asleep right away. So I opened my eyes and watched the trees blowing in the wind.
The sky was a beautiful springtime blue and everything looked warm in the sunshine. Although the trees were still bare of any leaves, and they were waving in the strong winds, they were glowing a cozy golden brown. I watched the peaceful scene for a while thinking about how nice it is that springtime has finally come. It sure felt like a long winter this year.
Suddenly a change came over the scene so abruptly that at first I didn’t know what had happened. I must have been getting sleepy and paying less attention to the trees when I looked out the window and saw everything changed. The trees were black. The sky was grey. The wind sounded harsh, and the warm glow of spring had gone. I wondered, at first, if it had been my imagination, but after a couple minutes the warmth returned and I realized that the change had only come from a cloud passing in front of the sun. It was just the shadow of the cloud that made that awful change from my warm spring scene to that cold, harsh one.
I lay in bed for a while watching the scene change back and fourth and I was suddenly struck by a parallel to my own life.
We have been basking in the warmth of having a new baby at home. Everything is full of newness, hope, and cozy time together. I am a bit like that tree basking in the new spring sun under that bright spring sky.
Of course, with a new baby comes its own share of challenges: sleepless nights, loads of laundry, and adjusting to life with three Littles. After the months of waiting and resting and limiting my activity, recovering from labor and delivery, and living through days on far less sleep, I feel a little bit like those bare tree branches being blown back and forth by the strong gusts of wind.
As I lay in my comfy bed and listened to that wind blowing, I realized that I couldn’t do anything to change the color of the sky, the warmth of the sun, or the strength of the wind. But I do have control over one thing. I can choose to be the dark, cold tree branches hidden from the sun. Or, I can choose to be the warm, glowing branches, golden under those springtime rays. Of course, it’s easy to be cold and short (especially with my toddlers) when I feel stretched thin and sleep-deprived, when the house is messier than normal, and I don’t have any kind of predictable routine. In fact, I can’t be warm and glowing on my own strength. I need the sun for that.
But if I will stay abiding in Jesus I can reflect His warmth, His gentleness and patience, His love and kindness, even when my branches are bare and the wind is blowing hard.
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to my home as we adjust to having our little Paul at home with us. This applies to any situation in life that comes with its share of blessings and hardships. It’s a good lesson in bearing with our trials and reflecting the light of Christ. And it’s a lesson I can remember every time I look out my bedroom window.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”
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)