Forgotten and Forsaken, or Favored and Protected

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Scripture prayers for Judah’s life.

There was a lot of weeping that week.  It had been the longest 9 months of my life. The exhaustion had completely overtaken me, and yet the new school schedules and homework and meals and children’s needs drove me on.

Labor seemed like a relief. A hospital stay, a chance to sit still ….finally. We had endured so much as a family to grow this little one in my belly, and I was desperately crying out for the fruition of our hard labors.

There was the false alarm two weeks before due date that sent me in to panic mode to set up an action plan should I go into labor before out of town family came to help. (that action plan was part of God’s plan, for it was to be implemented in an unexpected way).

And there were many more false alarms (NOT broadcasted over Facebook) that each got my hopes up that the end was in sight. My little brood of prayer warriors at home consistently begged the Lord to send me into labor. (DJ: Please Lord, Please let Mommy go into labor so we can meet Judah. Please help her have contractions today. Please help her to go into labor so she can be done being pregnant and not feel so bad.) And day, after long day, there was….nothing.

And my heart began to grow angry and bitter. Reflections on just how difficult the past nine months had been weighed my heart down. Yes, we had “made it” to the end, but it seemed like a cruel joke from God that the end was being dragged out so long, that He was not answering my prayers, and that I was too miserable to even function.

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A brief quiet moment, four days before Judah’s arrival. My sweet friend wanted to capture this pregnancy for me in photo, when all I wanted to do was be done with it.

That night when those fake contractions started up again, I tossed and turned in bed until I finally rose to catch up on my Bible Reading Plan.

And there, I found someone who had the boldness to declare the very feelings of my own heart…the ones I felt too ashamed of to express.

“Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,

I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint

and speak out in the bitterness of my soul…”  

Job 7:11, 10:1

And I found freedom to present my feelings of being forsaken by the Lord…on all those long evenings when I desperately cried out for strength and energy and perspective and joy in the midst of the struggle….and it seemed like I was just left to blindly stumble on in the darkness and silence. And I laid out my feelings of being forgotten, as I begged for labor to begin, for release of my body from the strain of growing this child and it seemed as if it would never come.

And this God we serve, He is a good Father. And He endures our temper tantrums because He knows what is best, and He holds out to give it, despite our rantings and ravings.

And since those teasing contractions continued,  I ended up writing out a prayer in my journal in those wee hours of the morning:

Aug. 26, 2014  1:37 am

Dear Lord,

If you see fit to allow me to go into labor tonight and bring Judah into the world, I ask that with his entrance, all the nurses and doctors would experience Your Shekinah glory in the process. May Your angels stand guard in that delivery room and may they fight in the spiritual realm for me and for him. I ask that every nurse, attendant and hospital worker that we come in contact with would meet YOU in the process.  May Judah, even from birth, have your word like a fire in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9) and may we, as his parents, share the fiery presence of Your Holy Spirit with everyone we encounter. May 2 Corinthians 2:14 be true of our labor, delivery, and hospital experience: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of HIM everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”

Little did I know that this was the Spirit helping me in my weakness, my little faith, and He himself was interceding for us, for Judah, in ways I was yet to discover.

Little did I know that we, indeed, would need angels in the spiritual realm fighting for Judah’s very life.

Little did I know that we would, indeed, be lead into triumphal procession, as Judah’s life would be protected, and his mamma’s rock bottom faith would be restored to overwhelming gratitude and trust.

~~~~~~~~~

After my measly 3 1/2 hours of sleep, I awoke at 5:30 to face another morning after a false alarm night. I awoke to another day of running around in complete exhaustion. I awoke despairing.

“Danny, this is just a cruel joke from God!”

My amazing friend from Florida who was staying with us for a few days agreed to watch these guys, while I took the rest to school (at least I didn’t have to get EVERYONE dressed and ready and buckled into their car seats  by 7:30)

Upon my return I took a quick nap (thank you, Amy!) and awoke just in time to make it to my doctor’s appointment.

At the office I discovered that I had lost three pounds in one week. My uterus was measuring that it hadn’t grown at all. The ultrasound showed a great decrease in amniotic fluid. And it showed that the chord was around the baby’s neck. The neck of a baby who wasn’t moving very much.

“The baby is no longer safe in your womb.  You need to go home drink a bunch of water and eat something and lie down and count the kicks. You need to call me within an hour and tell me how many you had and then you need to head straight to the hospital. We’re going to induce you today. ”

Worry did set in. But overwhelming faith flooded in as well. All of a sudden I understood why I hadn’t gone into labor, despite the many false alarms. God was holding Judah in my womb until the doctor could see what was going on. He had been the One holding him in safety until the right time.

If I had gone into labor naturally, I would have waited until the last minute to get to the hospital. I would have held out so that we were just rolling in when it was time to push. Which would have put Judah in grave danger. Because I just might not have made it in time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Danny was phoned.  He left his meeting with his coworkers praying for the delivery. Food was eaten. Kicks were felt.  Relief was had. Arrangements for kids were made.  Last minute instructions for homework were given. The next day’s ballet uniforms were stuffed in book bags. Frozen meal for dinner was pulled out to be thawed.

We checked in to the hospital, eight million questions were asked and papers were signed.

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 Pitocin was hooked up and the process began. Since it took a while for the contractions to really get strong, we got work done.

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My incredible doctor, who is also a Christian, came and broke my water.

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I then went from 2 cm to 10 cm in less than an hour. If I had gone into labor naturally, with labor moving that fast, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the hospital in time. I never would have known that with each contraction Judah’s little heartbeat was getting slower and slower. My trusted doctor wouldn’t have been ready and prepared to skillfully preserve Judah’s life.

But since the heartbeat was monitored, nurses and doctors were ready at post to do whatever it took to intervene in Judah’s life. They were good at not acting alarmed when I, who was focused on pushing, didn’t notice how drastically the heartbeat slowed.

But then I could hear it in her voice. There was an urgency in it, she called for help and asked for the vacuum. Then I realized it. The steady “thump, thump, thump” of the monitor slowed…to nothing.

I’ve never felt more powerless in all my life.

I couldn’t push him out fast enough, and I couldn’t keep his heart beating.

I started calling on Jesus out loud.

“Jesus, preserve Judah! Help him, Lord, help him!”

Danny, AND our doctor joined in the chorus of interceding.

“Yes, Jesus!”

“Bring him to us safely, Lord!”

Between the vacuum and mother’s frantic pushing knowing that her baby’s life depended on it, we were able to get him to the point where the doctor could get the chord out from around his blue head.

But then on the next push, again, his heart slowed to nearly nothing.

“He’s stuck…I think its around his arm…..oh, no, its his neck, the chord his around his neck again.”

The doctor was talking out loud to the nurses, but she worked quickly to unravel him.

Then his blue body emerged. 10:12 pm.

That little blue head started crying his lungs out.

And Mommy started crying too….tears of relief and thankfulness.

They worked on him a while, and then finally handed me a pale white little bundle…but a breathing, heart-beating white little bundle (he was still regaining circulation).

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And we sat and relished the “triumphal procession”.

This little bundle represented nine months of physical, emotional and spiritual sacrifice. He represented God bringing life out of all my deaths. He represented triumph despite the struggle, dark nights, and wrestling with sin.

With that little bundle I held triumph. A faith boosted. I held a tangible representation of the Father’s favor. A visible reminder of the Father’s protection. He represented to me God’s perfect sovereignty in all things…especially in the things I don’t understand.

~~~~~~~~~

Five hours later, after I had just dozed off after finally being moved to our recovery room, we received a phone call from my brother and sister watching our kids at home.

“I’m so sorry to call you guys, but the first floor is flooding and we can’t make the water stop flowing into the living room.”

And in my dazed state, instead of asking “why?” I told the Lord,

“I trust you. even in this.”

And that child-distribution action plan written up two weeks prior, was put into action as our home became unlivable until repair men and emergency water damage company came in to fix things. So, once again, God showed me his perfect sovereignty in all things….in a false alarm labor, in writing an email to friends to set up places for all of the kids to go, in these friends being ready to take on extra children at whim.

May this faltering faith be steadied by these “Ebenezers”…Markers of God’s perfect plan. His plan for His children. Children who are not forgotten and forsaken, but who are favored and protected.

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See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!               1 John 3:1

~~~~~~~

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

 Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
 He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91:1

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From the Mouths of Babes….extra ones

My sixth child...greatly influenced by the rest of my kids...shopping cart out, nerd rifle in one hand, purse in the other...

My sixth child…greatly influenced by the rest of my kids…shopping cart out, nerf rifle in one hand, purse in the other…

This child is the Presence of Christ in my life.

Not because she is a huge ministering Spirit or represents great power available, but because of what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40

“And the King will answer them, ‘

Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,

you did it to me.” 

And to be honest, there have been many an afternoon in the past several months in which we arrived home from school pick up, all hungry, grouchy, bouncing off the walls or each other, and dying for a nap (usually it was ONLY me wanting the nap) and this precious little girl, like clockwork, would ring our doorbell within five minutes of us pulling into the driveway.

And the complaining, selfish spirit in me would sometimes moan…”Lord, don’t I already have enough kids to deal with?! This is one more mouth to feed, one more person calling my name, one more person who needs some of me, when I already feel like I have none of me to give (little baby Judah is selfishly claiming it for his development and growth) !”

But one afternoon, as she showed up, with her bright eyes and eager heart to hang out with me, (and sometimes my kids) the Lord whispered that verse, which He had spoken two thousand years ago, “as you did it to one of the least of these my children, you did it to me, ” and I knew I was suppose to view her presence in our home, in all the chaos of free play time and kid-herding during chore time, and attention-span reigning during reading time  and mouth feeding during meal time as HIS presence. And I have the opportunity to minister to Him by ministering to her. 

So, this little girl, who when I first met her hardly spoke English, is literally like a sixth child in our home now (first day of summer vacation, and our car wasn’t gone she was faithfully ringing the doorbell at 8:45 am).  And instead of being a burden, it is an opportunity, a blessing, and a privilege to be able to love my Lord, by loving her. Just as the call to love my own children faithfully each day is a constant falling upon the grace, power and Presence of Jesus available to me, I fall on that same power for loving her, another child to care for, shepherd, and pour into. And todays manna is never sufficient for tomorrow. But as surely as the sun rises, the manna will be available to be gathered .

So, in terms of her contribution to Mouths of Babes…In her broken English (but MUCH better than when I met her almost a year ago) she can say some funny, “mouths of babes” things just like my own little ones. And because she knows the rhythms of our home life, the other day she saw me putting on my running shoes, and says:

“You exercising now?!” (she likes to try to exercise with me…or at least watch me clumsily jumping around and sweating)

“Yup, I’m gonna try to do it real quick before I have to cook dinner.”

“You’re kitchen gonna break.”

I burst out laughing…I knew exactly what she was talking about.

I exercise to little youtube workout videos in the kitchen, and it often requires a lot of jumping and hopping around. which can be rather boisterous, loud, (and yes, I admit it…floor-shaking) when you’ve got a massive bump on your belly, and, ahem, maybe a few too many extra pregnancy pounds, to carry along with you.

“Oh, you mean because I jump around and it makes a lot of noise”

“Yeeaahhh….Your kitchen gonna breeeaaak.”

And that was my “you’re fat and pregnant” compliment of the day. Which, fortunately came from the mouths of a babe, an extra one…

so I wasn’t too offended.

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When you want the glory without the path that gets you there

I dreamed it.

And it scared me.

Scared me right into humble submission to every long, hard, fatigued, feeling-sick day. Scared me into waiting patiently.  Scared me into receiving whatever I needed to learn and do in this hard waiting process.

It has been a tough 4 1/2 months. More negative emotions, failures, despairing moments, and struggles have been faced than I would like to admit.

And ever since week six, I had been grumbling about how I was excited about the child, but how I was horribly dreading/already hating the pregnancy . I kept whining to my very patient husband, “I just wish I could go into labor tomorrow. Why can’t I just skip the 9 months of utter misery and weakness, and get the kid?! Isn’t that what we were going to do with adoption? I’d do anything, just to be on my way to the hospital, ready to deliver this baby.”

And then I dreamed that it came true.

And I went into labor, and I was at the hospital….

…and I delivered a tiny, shriveled, and underdeveloped baby.  A dead baby. And the doctors told me,

“The baby didn’t have enough time to develop and grow. There was no way for the baby to make it.”

And that morning, the emotions still washing over me of what that would have been like, the Lord impressed it on my heart.

“What I am growing within you, is far more than a baby.  

And the character, patience, long-suffering, and endurance I will develop in you takes time.

If you rush the suffering, you will rush all that I am growing in you.

You will get a truncated self, just like that truncated baby”

So in my natural, in-my-strength, and according-to-my-plan self, I’d much rather avoid the messiness, weakness, humbling, and agony of it all.  Can’t we just skip to the glory? (have a precious little person in my arms to hold and to cherish?) But God is teaching me the same thing He was teaching His followers two thousand years ago.

You see, Peter seemed to have the exact sentiments as I do. (about the glory, not necessarily the baby)

This passionate and impulsive fisherman-turned-follower-of-Jesus, had great, bold faith in the Christ. He caught glimpses of a Kingdom led by this humble yet strong Man.  He was going to follow this God-leader into VICTORY.  He knew Jesus was the path to glory, to the Kingdom, that he had been longing for.

But he forgot that death is the path to glory, the shame of the cross the window into joy, the loss of self the finding of oneself.

He wanted what death brings about, but he wanted to skip the mess, the humility, the weakness of that which brings us to the resurrection.

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  Matthew 16: 21-23

Peter didn’t want suffering, entrapment, torture and death for Jesus.  “There is another way!” He declares. “Far be it from you, Lord, that you should ever suffer such weakness, vulnerability, and humiliation!” Poor Peter, with all his good intentions, had his mind on the things of man, not on the things of God. And I, too, deserve such a rebuke. For Jesus has predicted my death, and I try to declare “There must be another way!”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 

Matthew 16:24-25

And who, in their right mind, would voluntarily choose death. and struggle. and suffering. and denial of our hopes and dreams. Who on earth would want to be a “disciple” if that is what the requirements are for the “Jesus Club”?

No one. Unless….unless, they witnessed, this leader walking straight towards death. Riding a donkey right into the city where He would be handed over. Continuing to be friends with the very man who would sell him for thirty pieces of silver. Head straight for the suffering. Not for suffering sake, but for the sake of the Love of the Father, the love of the Father for…

ME.

For US.

For the whole messy, bumbling crew of us.

When one witnesses that kind of suffering motivated by love, we can’t help but follow.

No matter what the cost.  No matter what the cross.

And because it was LOVE that motivated our Savior’s, sacrifice and death.

We can rest in the fact that no matter what sacrifices and deaths we face,

the Lord has led us there

Because of LOVE.

May we not shortchange His love simply because it doesn’t “feel” good in the moment.  For, if you just wait three days. (or 9 months in my case) or even years and years,

Glorious, wonderful, experience-love-to-the-fullest RESURRECTION takes place.

And its worth every step on the path that gets us there.

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One Thing to Cling to When Things are Tough

Where’s this blogging girl gone?
Well, after a week spell of intense editing and rereading into the late nights, sickness has slammed the family. And slammed the door on the writing momentum.

And when your husband, and your kids, and your pregnant self are all horribly sick, violently coughing through night after sleepless night, aching and feverishly enduring day after long day,and it hurts to breath,and you can’t talk (trying clapping to the kids to communicate to them each day) and you can’t quite keep up with all this (and who needs what, when):

The many attempts at fighting this misery-inducing beast off.

The many attempts at fighting this misery-inducing beast off.

and you start fantasizing about how you might manage to get yourself hospitalized so you can at least get breathing treatments, strong pain meds and SLEEP,

you can start to lose your bearings.

You can forget whose you are, and how He works in His children’s lives.

You forget that,

Desperate situations do not necessarily mean God’s dissatisfaction.

But rather, it is in the heat and pressure, and tension and struggle of those desperate situations that somehow God is working and moving and refining and sharpening a mother who on more than one occasion through this past two weeks of weakness has found herself saying,
“I’m in way over my head. I will never have my life together. Look at this messy house. Look at these snotty, sick kids. Look at your impatient sick self trying to yell at them through a fiery throat and intense coughing spells. Who am I KIDDING trying to bring another child into the world, much less adopt another one into our family?”

But,

Desperate situations do not necessarily mean God’s dissatisfaction.

A.B Simpson writes:

“The other day, my friend and I were passing by the power plant that produces electricity for the streetcars. We heard the hum and roar of the countless wheels of the turbines, and I asked my friend, “How is the power produced?” He replied, “It simply is generated by the turning of those wheels and the friction they create. The rubbing producers the electric current.

In a similar way, when God desires to create more power in your life, He creates more friction. He uses this pressure to generate spiritual power. Some people cannot handle it, and run from the pressure instead of receiving the power and using it to rise above the painful experiences that produced it.

Opposition is essential to maintaining true balance between forces. It is the centripetal and centrifugal forces acting in opposition to each other that keep our planet in the proper orbit. The propelling action coupled with the repelling counteraction keeps the earth in orbit around the sun instead of flinging it into space and a path of certain destruction.

God guides our lives in the same way. It is not enough to have only a propelling force. We need an equal repelling force, so that He holds us back through the testing ordeals of life. The pressures of temptations and trials and all the things that seem to be against us further our progress and strengthen our foundation.

Let us thank Him for both the weights and the wings He produces. And realizing we are divinely propelled, let us press on with faith and patience in our high and heavenly calling. ” (Taken from Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman

So, those desperate situations do not necessarily mean God’s dissatisfaction…

They might actually mean His favor.

How to STAY where God puts you

Ever since I was sixteen I wanted to go.

After this happened, and the Lord literally lifted me out of the miry pit of depression, and gave me a firm place to stand,

He put a new song in my mouth…

And I wanted to sing it to the ends of the earth.

And all my plans, and preparations to go,

has landed me in staying.

And now, even as I stay in bed many days, due to the life formation that is drawing all of my life out of me,  and I read of these adventures, of women I greatly admire, the longings to go pull at my heart.

But, for now,

I stay in faith.

but also long that,

I faithfully stay

With eyes wide open to opportunities God opens for me to be a witness here, rather than there.

And for those other women whose hearts long for the going, I share this poem about the staying.

May we stay in faith, and faithfully stay.

“Stay there until I tell you. Matthew 2:13

I’ll stay where You’ve put me; I will, dear Lord,

Though I wanted so badly to go;

I was eager to march with the “rank and file,”

Yes, I wanted to lead them, You know.

I planned to keep step to the music loud,

To cheer when the banner unfurled,

To stand in the midst of the fight straight and proud,

But I’ll stay where You’ve put me.

I’ll stay where You’ve put me; I’ll work, dear Lord,

Though the field be narrow and small,

And the ground be neglected, and stones lie thick,

And there seems to be no life at all.

The field is Your own, only give me the seed,

I’ll sow it with never a fear;

I’ll till the dry soil while I wait for the rain,

And rejoice when the green blades appear;

I’ll work where you’ve put me.

I’ll stay where You’ve put me; I will, dear Lord;

I’ll bear the day’s burden and heat,

Always trusting You fully, when sunset has come

I’ll lay stalks of grain at Your feet.

And then, when my earth work is ended and done,

In the light of eternity’s glow,

Life’s record all closed, I surely will find

It was better to stay than to go;

I’ll stay where you’ve put me.

“O restless heart-beating against the prison bars of your circumstances and longing for a wider realm of usefulness-allow God to direct all your days. Patience and trust, even in the midst of the monotony of your daily routine, will be the best preparation to courageously handle the stres and strain of a great opportunity, which God may someday send.”

Poem and excerpt from Streams in the Desert by L.B Cowman, March 17 entry

No one ever said Death was pretty…and how to work through it.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. ” John 12:24

I face death every day.  I Corinthians 15:31

And we talk about “dying to self”.

But no one ever said Death was pretty.

Somehow, I seemed to have forgotten that. And when we found out we were having our sixth child and I prepared to endure the nine months of a thousand little deaths to myself so that new life could emerge, I boldly claimed and expected that God would meet us in the struggle.

He has. He is. and He will.

But there is some bloody, stinky death going on here. And  I forgot that death is never pretty. Even when God is in it.

There’s the death to my self-sufficiency, which I can so easily rely on when I have my normal amount of strength and energy.

There’s the death of my pride, as debilitating fatigue has landed me on my bed, at the mercy of people making meals for us and randomly being willing to watch a kid or two.

There’s the death of my banking on my ability to stand on the promises of God’s Word, and all my emotional and mental mess comes oozing out and I’m not “strong in my faith” or “able to keep it together (with the help of Jesus)”.

And then there’s the death of the logistics, like my kids showing up to church with mismatched socks, and a husband who reminded me again that he doesn’t have any clean boxers, and the incredible number of crumbs all over my kitchen floor (when you are lying down ON the floor, you get a great view of it all…I mean, of course I wasn’t sprawled out on the kitchen floor while I waited for the casserole to finish cooking), and the peanut butter smeared all over my black shirt when I showed up for the school meeting because I was too tired to change and too tired to care.

Over here, death just isn’t pretty.

And when life spins out of control, and you face the actual death of a loved one and all the despairing grief that comes with it, or you’re faced with cancer or a chronic illness, or you’re called into ministry in an intensely hard place where loneliness and fear can suck the life out of you, and whatever it might be, you, in faith (and fear) move into that place of personal death, over and over again,  and then you find yourself in a muddled and messy mix of emotions, doubts, strivings, and dimmed hope.  “Where did my faith go?” you might ask.

Maybe you, too, have forgotten that Death is never pretty.

So stop expecting it to be.

But as I recall, it wasn’t very pretty 2,000 years ago either.

There was blood spilled when Jesus was scourged, and there were probably bruises and disjoined limbs, and drool coming out of that busted lip from being beaten by the mocking soldiers, and there was an inability to even carry his own cross up the hill of Golgotha, and there was heavy panting and a desperate crying out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?!?!”

Its OK to have a bloody mess of emotions dripping down your face. Its OK to cry out in agonizing pain. Its OK to whimper there, try to catch your bearings and suck in your next breath. Its OK to ask those questions, “God, where are you?”.

Death isn’t pretty, and it isn’t naturally desired. But if we are a people called out, made different, made new by the very Presence of God within us, then our minds about death will change.  Our minds will change, because our hearts are changed by the One who was the Forerunner into ultimate death, so that all the deaths we die are just a folding of ourselves up under Him bearing it all for us. Our hearts and minds will be willing to embrace death, in all its messiness and agony, and declare in hope and faith “There is resurrection to come!” even when heart is hurting, and tears are flowing and mind is reeling.

For as we gaze on the face of the Forsaken One, with all blood dripping down and heart bursting, we remember what came three days later.  Resurrection. Yes. Resurrection. There is a joy, a glory, a resurrection on the other side of all the messy death we suffer through. And just like Jesus did, we will set our hearts on the joy set before us, enduring the cross, scorning its shame that we might sit with God on the other side.  (Hebrews 12:2)

For as Christians,

there IS another side.

to this messy, ugly death we face.

Lent (A Little Late): The best thing to give up for Lent

Lent.

A time to prepare our hearts for the sacrifice of the One who was sent to save people from the judgement they deserve.

A sacrifice necessary to gain us favor in the eyes of our Holy Maker.

And in honor of His sacrifice, we choose to sacrifice for 40 days leading to Easter.  All that we might know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Phil. 3:10)

And every time I open that age old book, hungry for some soul-sustaining Truth, I see it.

Sacrifice.

Funny, how you’ll drag tired body out of bed in order to read about animals being butchered. But in my Bible reading plan, I just finished reading through Leviticus and Numbers, and sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice is made.  Insane numbers of animals sacrificed, on a daily or regular basis. (to be honest…it seems like such a waste, I mean they could have eaten all those animals in their desert wanderings…but thats a whole different blog post)

And then I read that God doesn’t even care about all those animals He so specifically told Moses to sacrifice.

I will not accept a bull from your house
or goats from your folds.
For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?

Psalm 50: 9-13

Well, great. Now I’m wondering why God won’t make up His mind. He commands them. Then He says He doesn’t want them.  But I read on. And sacrifice pops out from the pages once again.

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

Psalm 50:14-15

And the very next morning, not so early (it was a painfully fatigued day), but during a few stolen moments while small children built forts with couch cushions, and very successfully unorganized the entire playroom, it pops again.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17

And the pondering and praying I had been doing on what to give up or do for lent, (meat?…no this pregnant body is desperate for it these days, even-earlier morning prayer sessions? no this pregnant mamma needs more sleep, not less. Coffee? I’m sorry but my children would bear the brunt of that each day) it all came clear as to the sacrifice I was to make for these forty days leading to His magnificent one.

A sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

A sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart.

And how could the two go hand in hand?  Well, for me to praise the Lord and give thanks in the midst of physical suffering? Well, thats a sacrifice of brokenness. Broken of my own desires and agendas. A sacrifice of me being on the throne and dictating to God how I want my world to be run. A sacrifice of my will, to declare “whatever You give is good, and I will thank You for it”.   And a sacrifice of praise is one contrition and repentance, for I simply cannot do it.

But I know the One who can.

And as I share in some suffering, and choose thanksgiving in it, I choose CHRIST. I choose Him IN me to accomplish it. And I choose the resurrection that comes when Christ is alive in a dead tomb of a struggling mamma.

And the sacrifice of self,

leads to the Resurrection I long to experience.

So, the best thing to give up for Lent

is myself,

for this is where I meet Jesus in that dark garden and know Him in me intimately as I, too, cry,

 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42 ESV)

And choosing to praise Him no matter what, is a constant declaration,

not my will, but yours be done.”

More Lenten helps

And to help with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, I downloaded this app on my phone to help me record all those things worthy of giving thanks to God for.

With the kids in the afternoon (when I can gather some of the neighborhood kids as well) we are doing this Lenten devotional.  There are only 17 entries which is perfect for late starts and moms who can’t get their act together on some  most days (namely, ME).  We always take time to observe and recount what we see in the painting (most DEFINITELY a homeschool activity as they learn to observe famous historical art, as well as get their hearts probed by the Word)

Last year’s Lenten endeavors.

The Real Secret to Real Strength.

Because all I’ve got is a lot of weakness right now.

All I’ve got is irritable mood swings.

All I’ve got is a lot of failure under my belt.

All I’ve got is this longing to be Repunzel and get locked in a remote castle (where I can sleep all day!), at least until this baby’s born and my energy is restored and my hormones aren’t going crazy.

All I’ve got, and all I can give, and all I can do,

is repent.

But not the kind of repentance I was taught in my Southern Baptist high school those many years ago.

No, a life-giving repentance.  One that infuses real strength, in a really weak person.

“Real Repentance is hilariously exciting. It is facing the facts of life, recognizing how God made you, how you were intended to function, and then being restored to that relationship of mutual interavailability that the Lord Jesus enjoyed between Himself and the Father, a mutual interavailability in which you are prepared to let Him be God.  That is true repentance.

Real repentance happens the moment you genuinely admit,

“I cannot-and only God can.”

Deriving from that repentance is the attitude the Bible calls faith.  It means bowing to the fact that you cannot and only God can. It means acting on the assumption that this is true and exposing every situation to Him moment by moment, for Him to accomplish what you cannot while you tell Him, “Thank you!”

You give Him

your hands for Him to work with,

your feet for Him to walk with,

your lips for Him to speak with,

your eyes for Him to see with ,

your ears for Him to hear with,

your mind for Him to think with,

your heart for Him to love with,.

You tell Him, “Thank You for being my Creator within the creature. YOU are in business!”

Taken from: The Indwelling Life of Christ, by Major Ian Thomas

And this, my friends, is the real secret to real strength.

For the Strong One is doing all of the heavy lifting.

Expecting: When you don’t get what you expect, but still expect to get

We didn’t get what we expected.

But now we wait in expectation for what we will get

We will get

Strength when we have none.
Faith to ride the storms.
God moving, moving in our children, when I’m rendered too weary for the job.
Order when I can’t be the one to enforce it
Joyful trust when we don’t understand the plan

I really should have known this would happened. Many  life experiences show, that as soon as we have a plan, a course of action we are following, Jesus moves us down a different path to remind us that he told us , “Come follow ME” not “come follow the plans you think I led you into”.

So, the very week we finish our adoption homestudy paperwork, we find out where our newest family member is.

He or she is growing…

in my womb.

And shock sets in, and grief over the seemingly shut door to adoption*, questions concerning all that had transpired this fall that seemed to make it so clear this was our season to adopt, but then also excitement over the newest little Iverson growing and the wonder of who this little person will be and become, and then the sudden realization and reminder that pregnancy.is.not.fun.

At least its not fun when you have five other little kids to keep up with and care for and naps are no longer an option in your life except at the extreme cost of finding plastic toys in your oven, every room in the house tornadoed through, and an inability to find your keys because the 1 year old was playing with them while you dozed during the supposed reading time that didn’t last long for mommy.  (cough, cough, its not like I’m speaking from experience…from this week)

Pregnancy is a cross to bear.  A giving up of one’s own life so that another might have it.  It is the gospel worked out, into every nitty gritty too-fatigued-and-nauseous-to-keep-up-with-the-housework-much-less-the-blog-i-wanted-to-be-more-faithful-about moment, in which I exchange my “right” to pursue my own passions and desires, my”right” to my body, my “right” to my own energy, my “right” to have a certain figure (let me tell you, when you are on your seventh pregnancy*, your body wastes NO time stretching right back out to the way it looked for 47 months of its previous existence). You give up your “right” to keep up with the New Years Resolutions, and you give up the “right” to have enough strength to keep your kids in line and do everything you need to keep things running.

But with all the suffering involved, even if its nine long months of it, it is worth every moment to impart life, a body formed around a soul entrusted, right there in your own womb.  Its worth it for who that child will be, how that child will bring laughter and joy and sanctification to his or her awaiting family members.  It is worth it for the sake of every life that child will impact throughout its life.  And most of all, its worth it to provide a place in which that little body can grow, grow eyes and ears and a heart and mind and a body to experience all the wonders of his or her Creator on this miraculous planet called earth. It’s worth it to bring a child into the world in which he or she will come to know God’s incredible redemption story. This child will come to know that although, he or she is born with a sin-cripped heart that will never need to be cultivated, only exposed, he or she will also find that this sin-cripped heart has been dealt with by the Sin-Crippler, Jesus Christ, the One with a pure heart. This child, I pray will gaze upon the cross that Jesus died upon, and come to realize this is his or her means to  a new heart, the very Heart of God, come to dwell in us. This message is what cripples sin within us, that only His heart can live abundant.

This is the greatest of all miracles, all mysteries, and it takes the miracle and mystery of pregnancy to invite a soul into such wonder.

So in the meantime, as cells reproduce rapidly, and God works miracles within, I will have to wait in expectation.  Not getting what I expected, but still expecting to get.

Expecting to get…

Strength when I have none.
Faith to ride the storms.
God moving in our children, when I’m rendered too weary for the job**
Order when I can’t be the one to enforce it.
Joyful trust when we don’t understand the plan.

For His promises declare it…that the waves of nausea and tiredness and aches and pains will not sweep over me, but rather the same Lord that created me and now forms this child, has commanded me to not be afraid but rather trust in the fact that I, and this child, and my family, who will all be affected by this pregnancy, have been called by name. And we are His.

So my three year old is HIS, when I really should be doing a better job of discipling him but can’t keep up with everything. And my 6 year old is His when I’m going to have to ask her to prepare lunch for her siblings. And my 8 year old is His when he’s just going to have to figure out a way to get his homework done without me. And my four year old is HIS when she’s going to have to settle for staccato-style reading of her older siblings rather than mommy always reading that book to her. And my 1 year old is HIS when he’s dressed in mismatched clothes because his four year old sister dressed him and that was the only way we could get out the door in time. And my husband is HIS when he comes home to dishes begging to be done and a wife fallen asleep at 9pm.

And my faith will be built, and there’s will too, as we all depend on the Mighty One, Jesus, together.

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Isaiah 43:1-3

And the battle cry these past few weeks, as morning sickness has set in, has been the calling out into the water that the Lord does.  And the expectation that He will meet us IN the waves, and IN the fire, For HE is the Lord our God, the Holy One of Isreal.

My Savior. from my sin. from my fear. in my weakness. in my need.

*stay tuned for what this means for our adoption process

**we lost one baby, in between our first and second children, thus making this our seventh pregnancy

***I already saw this happen, as last Tuesday I felt like death incarnate, and could not function.  Daniel Josiah and Trinity (first and second born, ages 8 and 6) “sent me to bed” and said, “Don’t worry, Mom, you go lie down. We will clean up the kitchen.  AND THEY DID. AND THEY DID IT WELL: cleaned dinner dishes, loaded dishwasher, started dishwasher, emptied trash, swept, wiped down counters and table and pushed in chairs.  I was amazed. (NOW if they would just do that EVERY night 🙂