Friday, 26 February 2016

Living in Uncertainty

Looking back over my short years, I see a trend. Not just leggings and hairstyles, but a true God-lead trend of maturing. Of forming and contouring me to His image. And the biggest continuous movement I see looking back and thinking of our current trial is God causing me to rely on Him. That me, Ms. Planner, cannot all things and know their usual outcome. That is by far the most constant thing I see God teaching me over the years.

A few recent case in points...

Seminary. My husband had a great job as an engineer and we loved our church, but God's call is all encompassing, taking over and directing you to do what He is calling you to. We knew we would head to seminary at some point, but one day we were there and we were going. It's never the right time for seminary, just like there is never the right time for having children. So we did both at the same time :) 1 born just before we left and 2 born during our time there. And as we wrapped up our time there, tearfully saying goodbye to the dear brothers and sisters in Christ God allowed us to fellowship with, we were left clueless. We were due in 2 weeks with our 3rd baby, and a month after her birth we had to leave our apartment and go... somewhere. After her birth (2 weeks after graduation) we still didn't know where we were packing for. But I was reminded over and over that God knew. He allowed me to know what I needed to do in the baby steps (have our daughter, pack our home, clean, etc.) until He revealed where He was preparing for us to go. He told Abraham to go, providing fully for him all things (even a son!). So why would it be any different. 2 weeks after she was born, and 2 weeks before we had to leave, we were given an opportunity and we knew where God wanted us for a time. Praise Him.

And a little more recently, after some turmoil and now a time of peace, I feel once again called to wait patiently on the Lord. I started bleeding at 12.5 weeks with our now 4th child. I cried out to the Lord, never having bled with our 3 others. It seemed more than spotting and I feared that what the Lord so graciously gave He had decided to take away. After listening to the baby's strong heartbeat, the Lord comforted me. But I continued to bleed every now and then. So they called me back in for an ultrasound. What's going on God? Baby's ok, but am I ok? "I wait for You because You are my strength. A mighty fort, a stronghold is my God..." (Psalm 59). Maybe that's why when I heard we have placenta previa currently with this child, meaning the placenta is too low and that's what's causing the bleeding, I didn't feel frightened. They didn't say bed rest (Praise the Lord!) but they told me to take it easy. They encouraged that it usually rights itself as the uterus grows. So we're under surveillance for the time.

Take it easy doesn't make me think of my life with 3 kiddos. We love to take mile walks, and I love waking up early to workout (2 miles) with a friend. We are active in the church (as a pastor's family, of course we're gonna be!) and busy. I help tutor with our homeschooling community and watch friends' kids when they need a moment (or a day). What does "take it easy" look like? Then my husband reminded me it's good to allow others to serve and good to learn to be served. I said "If they do put me on bed rest how will we stay afloat?" And I am reminded that I am not necessary. Not in a hopeless "They don't need me" kind of way. But in a realistic "God does it all" kind of way. I'm reminded of a dear friend that within the first year of their first pastorate, she was put on bed rest with their 2nd child. With 20 some-odd weeks left in the pregnancy, she was unable to serve (as she saw) in their brand new congregation. But it brought the congregation into a time of love and service towards their family- caring for their daughter, bringing meals so the new pastor wouldn't have to be overwhelmed with cooking too, laundry, cleaning. Seriously. It was an amazing time of learning to serve in the church. And God grew her in godliness during this time of waiting, giving her ample time to study His word and rely on His providence. O Lord that I may have her patience!

But the thing that comes back to me over and over again is that God will provide. He will provide strength. He will provide patience. He will provide care. He will provide answers in time. He will provide all things that are necessary because He has promised His loved ones. And God never lies, never falters, never goes back and changes His mind. His yes is yes and His no is no. Praise the Lord!

As I feel the baby kick, I know He's already providing and caring. I need not worry.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

We Stand United

As I scroll through my Facebook feed, I'm always struck by the different blogs (not all but some) that I've liked since becoming a wife and mom. Now... I'll give this disclaimer that it's not every blog I follow. I have good friends whose blogs are amazing testimony of God's work in their lives. And I'll also say that I am a sinner in need of Christ just like every person on the globe. And a third disclaimer: this is not meant for those in truly biblically troubling relationships. For those who need the help of others because of the downward turn of their marriage. But it is meant for the everyday. 

That said, I'm tired. Truly exhausted by even seeing yet another article, blog post, or quick note shaming husbands. They are always quick witted and make you surprised that actual men exist somewhere that do these ridiculous things. And while I know that husbands too are sinners, and that they do things differently than mommy, where is the respect? Where is the love shown to him, even in written words? Why are they the silly sidekick in most mom blogs? 

Early on in our marriage, Joe and I learned the need for communication. We had both seen and experienced the effects of bad communication within the covenant bond. For the first 6 months I held back anger, emotions, and other things because I didn't want to hurt the "happy" union between me and my new husband. I wanted the "perfect" marriage, with no disagreements and no issues. What I made for myself was a marriage filled with grumpiness and miscommunication which caused more issues. Both Joe and I will say the first year of marriage was the hardest. But in that trial, we saw what God was teaching us. The intense need of intimate communication between husband and wife. 

"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Ephesians 5:22-33

How can that be done without communication? Without respect (note that God commands it of the wife here)? Without love? Without giving of oneself (see 1 Corinthians 6-10 for more on that)? And granted, if you're a mom, you give all day to the kiddos. And then the hub comes home and you are asked to give to him to. Many women, including myself, have been burned out on the giving giving giving until they collapse into tears or at minimum a hot bath at 11pm when all is quiet. Because who are we truly giving to? If to man, it'll be miserable. There will be disappointment and frustration. Entitlement will seep in. But if we give ourselves to God, we'll see different fruit mixed in with our ever-constant sin. Patience will slowly take over our frustration. Love will take over our disappointment. Humility our entitlement. Peace our anger. Gentleness our quickness to use our tongue to hurt instead of encourage. Self-control will in time replace our impulsiveness. 

As years passed, other things were taught us by beloved friends who discipled us with God's word. But the most important thing that I learned before we left for seminary was to guard my husband. That little comments that I say about him in front of others effects how he is viewed by them. And while those comments still pop up in my head from time to time, I hold my tongue. Because I desire my husband to have not just my respect, but others. Why do they need an account of how my husband has failed this week? Must his wrong doings be publicized so that he is shamed? Do I need to to hold my husband to MY standard more than God's? 

All this to say, I stand behind my husband. In good times and in bad. In sickness and in health. For richer and for poorer. Until death parts us. We are a team. When we made a covenant before God and witnesses, we became one. He's not my sidekick. He's my leader. He's not a goof any more than I am. If he makes mistakes, the world doesn't need to know. We've talked about it. We've worked through and around it. We stayed as one flesh. He is my beloved and I am his, even on days when we wonder why we married each other. We are a team. When one teammate falls, the other picks them up and helps them continue on. 

Please, wives. Love you husbands. Stand behind them as their helpmeets and love them with a Christian love. And let the world see this and marvel at your joy in the Lord and ask you why you are so different from the rest of the world. Because you have an intense love for God that is shown in how you treat your husband.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Dear Far Away Friend

Dear far away friend,

I miss you. That is an understatement. I miss walking down the street or across the hall to knock on your door. I miss having in depth discussions with you and praying with you. I miss talking about your hometown, and praying for your friends there. I miss your wise advice and your seemingly insatiable curiosity for God's word. O how much you taught me...

I wish I could talk with you freely and not fear contacting you in case it endangered you. I wish I could tell you of what God has done in my life this past year, both the pitfalls and joys. I wish I could hear what God has been doing in your life, but am grateful I get a small snippets here and there through different people. I wish I could encourage you and tell you I pray fervently for you. Or that I keep reminders to pray on my dresser and on my keys. That I have told my children all about you and that I will continue to tell them the amazing things God is doing through you. I wish I could come alongside you and mourn with you during your intense suffering, and hug you tightly. I wish I could encourage you through scriptures, and if I failed, through sitting by you in loving silence while you spoke or cried. I wish I could hear you speak.

I wish and miss often concerning you. But I continue to recall the joyous answer we told each other when we were going down the different paths God was sending us on: how joyous will our reunion be in heaven, dear one! Oh I long for Christ to come, for your suffering to be over, and for us to worship Him once more together in His temple. I still learn from you, from your spiritual strength, your immense desire for His word, and from your steadfast love for your steadfast loving Savior.

I hope the vast world of the digital age can make this find a way to you. I still love you, my sister in Christ. The love David had for Jonathan. And I ache for Christ's coming that you may be released from your trials and rejoicing and exalting His name with me in heaven.

With love in Christ

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Concealing a Blessing...

I'll be truthful. I'm not one of those women that feels amazing and gorgeously glowing throughout pregnancy. The first trimester, I'm excited, but exhausted and nauseated. By God's mercy, it's been just that. But only for my third pregnancy could I stay in my normal clothes for the first trimester. With Judah, I bloated at 6 weeks and donned maternity wear for the following 34 weeks. With Levi, I could hold back a bit longer, but summer came early and slightly tight clothes were just not going to work. The second trimester is easier. God is gracious to give a boost of energy (especially when you already have little ones to care for) and maternity wear is comfy and cute. People are kinder with their words, "O! I think you're beginning to show a little!" All around, a happier 3 months. But then the third trimester comes. The aches and pains of holding this little one. The aches and pains of holding their siblings on the outside. I can't sleep well for varied reasons, and the "joking", but truly hurtful, comments of others begin, "Are you sure you've got just one in there?" I got that one this week. With Levi, I got "Are you having triplets?!" And with Judah, I was stopped by the greeter at Walmart when I was returning unopened liters of soda from a church event and was given a lecture on weight gain and soda drinking. For me, I'm already uncomfortable. The clothes I'm wearing that day allowed me to feel the most comfortable I could and still feel like I'm presentable...

But I find during the whole experience, with all three children, I'm ridiculously self-conscience. The error of people-pleasing at it's worst for me. I don't WANT to look like I'm carrying triplets just because I'm short and my stomach protrudes out further than a beach ball. I take longer to get ready on Sundays because my body says "Wear maternity jeans..." but my pride says "Look nice! It's church!" For a good portion of my pregnancy, I spend needless time getting myself together so that I show to the minimum amount. Besides the sin of people-pleasing (Ephesians 6:6), I am truly acting (even if I'm not feeling) ungrateful for this amazing gift of life growing inside.

It's not a matter of beauty. Vanity, maybe, but I am content. It's truly a matter of perspective during a time when you need the Lord's endurance to get you through the pain of childbirth (see that curse in Genesis 3) and seeing the blessing come forth. Psalms 127 and 128 lay it out beautifully the BLESSING that I'm so ready to hide just because I feel awkward. 

127:3-5- "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

The last half of this psalm of the wisest king, Solomon, tells us that they are a heritage, a reward! We are blessed when we fill out homes with them. 

128:3-4- "Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots
around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord."

Psalm 128 follows at 127 heels. In 127, we see that the house that the Lord builds is a blessed home. And that children are a wonderful blessing. In 128, we see that same family, with a father/husband who fears the Lord, is blessed. The wife/mother is fruitful (see Proverbs 31:10-31 for what that fruitfulness looks like) and the children are described as olive shoots. They are given the roots of their godly father to rise up and bless those around them with their OWN fruit. Olives in Israel are ground into a balm for healing, a salve for sand protection, a lotion for soothing. They are essential. 

So when I think of this big huge belly that I'm trying to figure out how to move around with, I need to change my thinking to one of the happy heart that I ask my sons to have. One that is grateful for this growth, no matter the discomfort or comments, because of the life that is so beautifully knitted together inside. She is fearfully and wonderfully made. She is set apart for God's purpose and glory. And praise the Lord that I get to carry her. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

To Nest...

Nest: noun; a structure or place made or chosen by a bird for laying eggs and sheltering its young; a person's snug or secluded retreat or shelter.

Often by the third trimester, most women (I won't say this for all) have given in to the desire to "nest". To make one's home ready for the little one that's on the way. With Judah, I cleaned out closets, organized the medicine closet to make room for baby stuff, and laundered all his clothes just in an effort to get ready for our first. When Judah came home, we had just had a baby shower the day we went into the hospital. Presents were still in packages, things unorganized, and the kitchen table covered. I'll admit. I cried. After all that prep, and a long WEEK in the hospital (Judah had jaundice that kept us there 2 extra days), I was overwhelmed that the hospital would allow us to bring this sweet sleeping babe into what I then considered a heap (a vacuumed heap, but a heap none the less).

Levi, I was determined would be different. Since Judah was a c-section, Levi was a planned one. I had the apartment cleaned from top to bottom for my parents staying with our little man while we were gone. I redid Judah's room to fit a crib and made it into a map-themed adventure room for two little boys to explore and discover together in. Pulled out the 0-3 month stash of boys clothing and even had the diaper area ready. Along with the corner of our own room readied for the next 3 months that he would sleep with until he slept well enough through the night. Ready! But when Levi came home, and my parents left after a short visit, and Joe went back to classes and finals (just across the street)... I didn't even know what to do with TWO kids. It took 4 months or more to finally figure out a routine that didn't make me feel exhausted at the end of the day. 

Lesson learned? You might think I'm reaching, but this is what I've found as we wait for baby girl to arrive. This isn't my nest. With both boys I was SO focused on making sure everything earthly was ready. Not that that is wrong, to ready oneself for the revealed plan that the Lord has laid before you. But how much of that time was I focused on praying for readiness? Praying for endurance? Searching the scriptures for what I really needed to bring those boys into the world (whether naturally or by man's hand/scalpel?)? 

Jesus rightly reminds me in John 15:19(b) "...but you are not of this world, but I chose you out of the world." This isn't my home. Matthew 6 puts it in a different way. That we aren't to place all our treasures here on earth "where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal." Where are our treasures to be? "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:20-21). So when I'm overly worried, and let's face it, pregnancy hormones don't help, where is my heart? For me, I'm focused on things. Diapers, clothes, crib bedding, etc. It's not that it's wrong to prepare for the child to come (you're gonna be in a bit of a pinch if you don't). But if it's your only focus, and all happiness rides on your readiness, misery follows. 

For little girl, God has taught me this with a hard lesson. I can't nest. I want to! Don't get me wrong. But the corner of our room is all I have because we're moving to I don't know where the month after she's born. Not that I'm doing nothing. Lovingly handed-down clothes are being laundered, her area is being set up. I even sewed a couple things for her and her corner. But the Lord has kept my mind on Him. I'm not ready for 3! I only have 2 hands! But the Lord placed a strong desire for our third on our hearts, and we listened willingly. With her, I find myself studying the Word to see what strong godly women God talks about that I can tell her stories of. I pray for her more than I ever did for the boys in utero (don't tell them that haha). Not just for her growth, but her heart. Has it really taken 3 children for me to finally get a tiny grasp on what it means to nest in a godly manner? Is this the kind of nesting the Proverbs 31 (verses 10-31) woman would have done?

With her, I'm not worried. God is sovereign. He knows what I need (Matthew 6:31-32) and what our family of now 5 needs. He knows I can't pack my tiny freezer full of ready-made dinners for our first month after her arrival. And He knows that I'm not looking forward to another c-section. But what does He ask of me in the midst of all the crazy hormonal worries that pregnancy (or unfaithfulness) bring on? " first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matt. 6:33). And what is His promise if I obey? If I lay all my anxiety on Him and seek Him? "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." A peace that transcends all understanding? I'd say I'd feel ready for twins with that.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Growing up in Seminary...

It's been on my mind lately the immense blessing that Judah and Levi don't even realize. I guess I should begin with, God richly blessed us by providing us housing on campus here at seminary. Not only does Joe simply have to walk across the street daily to study and attend classes, but we as a family benefit too. The support from other families surrounding the seminary is truly invaluable. Our children get to grow together in Christ, play together, and love on one another. Even if they are all under the age of 5 :) But in emergencies trusted friends are literally next door to take a little one while you take the other to the hospital or doctor. It's such a blessing.

But for Judah, looking especially through his perspective, this building is home. The retired pastor and handyman is his Papa. The professors are all elders whom he knows and isn't too shy to talk too. The other seminary students are dear friends whom he explodes with excitement to see. He knows that we can go to chapel and worship God daily if we want, and he's learning through family worship and chapel time how to truly worship, not just sit still, on Sundays. For our children, they are growing up surrounded by our brothers and sisters in Christ teaching them alongside us the amazing unity and diversity of God's Church.

It does make me sad to think because he's so young, Judah won't remember it all. He may not remember his best friend who's family will return to another continent after graduation. Or his love for time with our across-the-hall neighbors, which sometimes is translated "Mommy, you and daddy need to go on a date so the Morelands can come over." Cause dinner with them isn't enough. It may only be a vague memory the faces and places God has enriched us with over these past 2 1/2 years (3 when we're done and move). A part of me prays this time sticks in his memory as it will for Joe and I. I know Levi won't remember. He's too little. But I do pray that Judah won't hold tight to a place, but the blessings that God gave us while we were here. I hate thinking of graduation, when we and everyone in our year will go across the country (and oceans!) to go where God is calling us. Not because I don't want to go. I do with all my heart! But we as a family will greatly miss the people God has put in our lives for such a short time.

Seminary isn't just for my seminarian husband. God brought us all here. And truly... we all are blessed by it.

Monday, 19 August 2013

à la fin...

à la fin: French; at the end.

September 9th begins our final year at seminary. A few Sundays ago, a team from a bible church in Ohio visited our church wanting to research the way other denominations worship and do urban outreach. While talking with one of the team members, she asked why we're in Pittsburgh (after finding out Joe and I grew up in the Midwest).

I simply said, "O! We're here for seminary!"
(Picking up on the "we") "You go to seminary too?"
"Well, no. But we're a team."

Even though it happened so recently, I think it tells of how these past 2+ years have gone. We came as a family of 3. Joe began classes, and I began figuring out what God wanted of me... as a wife, as a mother, as a person.

At first I looked for work because that was the only way I figured we could get insurance with my diabetes. I hated interviewing because what I truly wanted was to be at home with Judah. In one such interview, I was asked point blank, "what is your ideal job?" I didn't lie and tell them exactly what I had applied for, I just smiled and honestly told her, "A stay-at-home mom." I found out that that's what she wanted too, but couldn't do that at that point in her life. After that, I stopped applying places. I picked up a job cleaning one afternoon a week at our denominational publishing house across the street. I figured I felt truly called to be at home with our son, and why should I strive against it? God blessed us with insurance within a month of this decision, and He turned my hobby of graphic design into a job. First it was a book cover, then 3 new business clients all within our denomination. Then it was going by word-of-mouth with logos. God provided amply for us so that I could be at home. He even blessed us with another son, Levi, a year later! So as Judah got older and Levi thrived I began to understand better my role as mother. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deut. 6:4-7). Joe and I work as a team in training our boys. I can't teach them what he can, and likewise he can't do what I can. When I begin to feel the curse of Eve and take over our boys like I'm the only one who knows how to parent, everyone suffers. In the words of Judah's favorite song by Buddy Davis, our marriage "is designed to do what it does do and what it does do it does do well, doesn't it?" Going against God's design for my life creates strife and craziness. And no one likes strife and craziness. Not to say His design is easy, but it IS perfect!

Our team work stretched itself into our second year, as we expected Levi right after presbytery exams and right before finals. And as we knew I'd most likely have a c-section, we also had to expect a long recovery for me. But God kept our ship afloat. Right on schedule, Joe passed his presbytery exams (license to preach!), Levi was born two weeks later (praise the Lord for bringing my parents in to watch Judah!), and 2 weeks after that Joe finished finals week. God provided meals, sorely needed rest during winter break (we didn't really have one during Thanksgiving break), and a blessed love between our boys from day 1. I'll admit, I prayed often for patience and energy. I could not get my head above water with being a seminary wife, mom of 2, helping at church, and leading weekly bible studies with other wives at the seminary. I was super-mom and I was seriously floundering. Why? Because I was relying on myself. "Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. What they trust in is fragile; what they rely on is a spider’s web. They lean on the web, but it gives way; they cling to it, but it does not hold" (Job 8:13-15). Joe, my true leader, saw this and knew the cure. He got us on a daily bible reading plan and was my accountability partner. And being in God's word daily was exactly what was needed. It was hard at first to make it a habit, but now, I need it. I yearn for it. I love when God recalls things for me and helps me to see the beautiful plan He has made since Creation and before! God is so good. He also taught me the error of HOW I was praying. "God, I need patience." "I need energy." "I need wisdom." What I realized is that even though I'm asking for good things, I'm asking for them so that I can use them in the way I think I should use them. Did you see how many times I said "I"? So I began praying "God? Be my patience" cause God's way of being patience is infinitely better than mine. "God? Be my strength" cause all the strength I have is futile. God will always have enough of what I need. Isn't that amazing?

Beginning year 3 makes me look back on all God has taught me that I can bring to the team when we are called to the pastorate. People may think, "We're calling Joe," and it's true. I'm not gonna preach, even if Joe is sick suddenly Sunday morning and I know his sermon by heart. But we're a team. We come as a packaged family of 4, as I keep trying to explain to Judah. So God cultivated me alongside my husband during our time here. I learned how to run a bible study purely from scripture. I learned how to lead a bible/book study. I am learning what it means to "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19). How to have better, more fruitful hospitality. Ways to teach our boys to serve at an early age. How to be content in all things. I'm learning at seminary too, even if I'm not taking "Doctrine of Human Nature". God is so good to humble me, and teach me alongside my husband. He is so gracious to provide for us during this time. He's merciful as He teaches me what it means to sit in the pew by myself with 2 wiggles as Joe preaches. He's infinitely wise, infinitely just, infinitely holy. His word is truth and a light to my path (Psalm 119). I'm learning from the man God placed as my head and enjoying Joe's company on the straight and narrow way.

Praise You Lord for what You have done these past 2+ years! It might not be exactly what Joe is learning, but we're a complimentary team, designed to do what we do and what we do together we do well, don't we?