Marriage Mondays: Strong Foundation

Every other day it seems like someone is getting engaged, married, or having a baby. Of course I know that it is not an epidemic and that it truly is just the season of life that many of us are in right now. In all the excitement of starting something new, moving to new levels, and adding to families I cannot help but think about the importance of a strong foundation.

Psalm 127:1 reads, “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” I personally, never want anything that I do to be in vain especially when it comes to my marriage and family so the foundation piece has always been super important for Joe and I.

We have definitely been through some things in these past few years and I know that the reason we are still happily married is because of that foundation in Christ. It is our goal to continuously work to ensure that Jesus is the center of all that we do. When we first got married we quickly learned that our love was not going to get us through the difficult times. But isn’t that such a cute thought? Our love will see us through! Hmmmph… yea right!

When I am upset with Joe, when I am offended, or hurt my love for him does not always overpower my emotions. Many times my emotions temporarily win that battle and things get worse before they get better. Then I remember that my marriage is a covenant between God, Joe, and myself and my perspective almost always shifts immediately. I am blessed to be married to a man that understands that same concept and it has made things a bit easier to handle. When we found out that we lost Nia the first thing that we did was grab hands and pray together. It was in those moments that I realized how crucial having Christ at the center of our marriage was. Things for sure are not always perfect, but I know that our foundation is set firmly in Christ and that makes everything better.

Being About It

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A little while ago, I wrote a post about praying friends. In that post, I talked about the importance of it and how wonderful it is to be surrounded by people who love you enough to include you in their prayers to God. Lately, my family and I have been going through so many things. Throughout it all, I have had two friends who not only said, “I will be praying for you guys!”, but they actually stopped what they were doing and did it.

Far too often, we say that we will pray for someone and it never happens. We act as though we have done a great deed when we utter those words and the person on the other end smiles kindly and says, “Thank you.” What is it that stops us from dropping whatever we are doing, placing a hand on their shoulder, and praying? What is it that is so important that we cannot place the needs of our friends in front of our own temporarily?

For awhile, I personally had a fear of praying in front of others. I did not want people to hear my intimate and private thoughts. I was afraid that I would sound silly or not churchy enough. Would I recite the correct phrases? Would I remember to place emphasis on the right words? Would I remember to input some scripture so they would know that I read my Bible? What if I got tongue-tied or stuttered?

What I have finally realized is that none of that matters. When my friend placed her hands on my shoulder and prayed for me in the midst of what I was feeling and thinking, I instantly felt a sense of peace. My other friend actually texted a prayer to me and I was instantly comforted. There is power in prayer and peace that comes from knowing that others are standing with you through prayer. Joe and I always joke around about “talking about it” vs “being about it.” I want to encourage you to “be about it” today and to also hold me accountable for doing the same. It is time to step out of our comfort zones and into a place where God can truly use us to be a blessing to others.

Never Again

Joe and I were listening to a sermon recently by a pastor named, Samuel Rodriguez. The sermon was entitled, “Never Again” and really spoke to us both on so many levels. He talked about the story of Noah in Genesis 5:32-10:1. One point he really touched on was the promise God made to Noah in the end, where he says,
“Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”
The phrase “never again” resonated with me so strongly. For days, I would hear it over and over in my head, wondering what God was trying to say to me through it. In the scripture, Noah and his family had just come out of a storm. Though it was rough at many points, and even leading up to it they had to deal with issues, they made it out unscarred and then God gives them this great promise, “never again.” I could not help but to see the parallels in my own life and see what God was saying to me through this story and phrase.

We have talked so much about having more children and to be honest, I go in and out of fear when it comes to it. Clearly, this journey has not been easy for us so far. I am always tempted to worry about something horrible happening to us again. Lately, when those thoughts arise I hear the voice of God so clearly saying “Never Again!”.

I learned a few things from the scripture and that sermon about Noah that we can all apply to our lives and the storms we endure:
Noah was obedient… Despite the naysayers, despite the doubt he must have felt at some point, and despite any limitations and obstacles, Noah was obedient and as a result his family and future generations were blessed.
Noah was prepared for the storm… He worked hard for many years building the ark, despite the obstacles. He prepared his family for the storm. Likewise, we must be spiritually and physically prepared to endure whatever comes our way. The week leading up to Nia’s delivery Joe and I were both studying Job. Throughout the entire process, those scriptures kept coming up in my mind. Because of that preparation, my heart was different, my prayers were different, and I never doubted God’s plan in that moment.
Noah praised and worshipped God when the storm was over… Many times we like to shout that “we made it!” when we get out of a storm and forget who the glory is supposed to go to. The full verse quoted above actually reads, “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.” (Genesis 8:20-21). Noah’s praise was pleasing to God and led him to make that wonderful promise.
The ark landed on a mountain… As a result of the storm and the height of the waters, the ark was raised high above the earth. Sometimes your storm will leave you on higher ground in life spiritually, physically, and mentally.

I am looking with excitement towards the future, not just in terms of growing our family and having more children but in everything. When that fear does creep back up I will just pray those very words that have been floating around in my head and heart for the past few days… Never Again! And I will watch as God fulfills His promises!

Praying Friends

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“Rich is the person who has a praying friend.”   ~ Janice Hughes

When I initially heard this quote I took a second to think about my current friendships and whether or not I have some praying friends. Then I took a minute to think about myself as a friend and what my prayer life looks like in regards to my friends. I quickly realized that I have some work to do.

I wrote a post in the past about the importance of surrounding yourself with like minded individuals. I talked about how essential that is in maintaining a healthy and strong marriage. Since then I have learned that it is also essential in helping you to maintain a sense of self. Time after time, we have heard the phrase that “birds of a feather, flock together” or how we are the company that we keep. Solomon even warns us about choosing the wrong friends in Proverbs 13:20,
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

The Bible teaches us that there are many benefits to praying for our friends and in turn, for having friends that pray for us. It was not until Job prayed for his friends that God restored him completely (Job 42:10). Perhaps, God wanted to see that Job could forgive his friends and show love and mercy in spite of what they did or said previously. Maybe God wanted to see that Job’s heart was still for God. No matter what the reason was behind it, I was able to draw a lesson from it personally. I realized that I need to be a better friend. Now don’t get me wrong! I think I am a pretty good friend but I know that you would not be able to tell it from my prayer life. Of course, I pray for people when a request has been made, but the majority of the time I am so wrapped up in praying for myself and my needs. I believe that their is great power in intercessory prayer. There are so many scriptures in the New Testament that allude to that fact (1 Timothy 2:1, Ephesians 6:18 for example). God even thought enough of it to have the Holy Spirit intercede on our behalf when we do not have the words to pray (Romans 8:26-27).

So, I have decided that I want for all of my friends to be rich! Not financially! Well, if they are rich that way that is great too, but I mean rich in spirit. I want for all of their homes, marriages, families, careers, friendships, etc. to be richly blessed. I want to be a praying friend and to be surrounded by praying friends.

I listened recently to a study by Karol Ladd, who suggested a scripture to pray over friends. So today I am praying Colossians 1:9B-12 over all of my friends and readers of this blog.

“That ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” – Amen

Hopeless Laughter

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Throughout my last pregnancy I was drawn to women in the Bible who had some sort of struggle with pregnancy, such as Tamar who fought for her right to birth children, Hannah who was taunted by her husband’s other wife for being barren and prayed to God for a son, and now Sarah the wife of Abraham who had basically given up hope. As I was reading more about Abraham, I came across a scripture that really struck me.

Genesis 18:10-15 reads,
Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”  Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’  Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

I read that and thought about how many times I laugh at God. How often do I laugh at a word that was dropped into my spirit or something that someone speaks over me. How often do I see it as impossible? unattainable? unimaginable? or too much for me to handle? I realized that I often laugh just like Sarah did. I laugh not out of disrespect or disregard but out of doubt, disbelief, and fear. I laugh because I may have lost hope in a particular situation and have began to believe and accept that things are what they are. I laugh because I forget how big the God I serve is. Like Sarah, time after time God has followed through on His promises and shown me just how good He is.

I have decided not to laugh out of fear and doubt anymore. I am choosing to believe and trust that He will do just what He says. Will you join me?

Waiting


Waiting is truly something that I struggle with. Some people say it is difficult for our generation because we are used to having instant gratification. We want things and we want them now and typically we go ahead and get them now. Since Joe and I have been together I have had almost constant lessons on waiting. Joe moves slower than I do (not in walking or anything like that… clearly his legs are twice the size of mine). He is just a thinker, very methodical, and very cautious. While I can work with that now, it was super hard particularly when I was waiting for the proposal! I had moments where I broke down! I would get so upset with Joe and wonder what was the hold up! My mother said over and over that patience is power and I got so annoyed with that phrase. Now, it makes too much sense and is very applicable to so many things.

I discovered over time that my lack of patience, directly relates to my faith, it directly relates to how much I trust God to do what He has already promised, it directly relates to how much I trust and believe that Joe, the man that God sent me, the man that I married, a man that goes hard after God daily is perfectly equipped to lead our family. In our marriage, Joe is clearly the patient one and I am work in progress in that area. However, I am learning that many times he ends up being right and I end up causing us a bit of trouble due to my haste. Most recently, I was ready for Joe to do our taxes so that we would know ahead of time what needed to be paid or what would hopefully be received on our end. Two days after he filed due to my persistent prodding, another W-2 came in for a job neither of us remembered that he worked. Thank goodness it did not affect anything negatively and it was actually a positive for our situation. It did give us more work to do and caused a delay in receiving those funds. In that situation, I learned so much about myself and saw some things that I really did not like. My impatience could be a detriment to me and my family if I did not quickly get things together.

So much is written in the Bible about patience, but a few scriptures stood out to me in particular for various reasons. Lately, I have been very interested in Abraham and learning more about him. Obviously, he was a very patient man. Hebrews 6:14-15 reads, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. When I read that scripture I immediately thought about all that I am waiting for God to do in my life. I thought about all of the prayers that I am waiting to be answered. I remembered the scriptures that I have been reading and praying over my life and my family. I recall all of the wonderful promises written in His word and I feel super convicted. We always say we want things in God’s time, but how many of us really mean that and live by it? I am encouraged today by this scripture and will work to exercise more patience in my life all the way around. What about you? Are you already super patient? Or is this an area that you also need to work on ? What prayers would you like answered? Are you on God’s time or your own?

Counting It All Joy

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As I sat in the NICU at the hospital with my baby I found myself getting sad. I started to look back on this past year and feel really depressed about all that has gone on. Things were rough and it was definitely a season of difficulty. Our marriage has been tested in a variety of areas, we lost our first baby, Nia, various family members have had difficulties with their health, our relationships with family members have been tested, etc. I realized that I could sit there all day long and list the problems the past year has brought or I could think about the victories, I could reflect on all the ways God has blessed us, I could praise God for what He is doing and has done in the midst of it all.

I am grateful for my life, my health, family, and friends. I am grateful for my wonderful husband and handsome baby boy and their lives, health, and strength. I am thankful that when I feel lost and lonely, when I feel abandoned and unheard, and when I feel like I am about to break I am able to feel the presence of the Lord. In James 1:2, Paul says to “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds”. I have heard that scripture so often throughout my life and to be honest I have never really liked it. I never understood why it would be considered joy to suffer and go through trials. And as a believer, it was difficult for me to accept that suffering was to be a part of our lives regardless of our beliefs. In Matthew 5:45, it says that God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and unjust.” The difference of course, is our response to the trial and what it produces in us for the glory of God. Romans 5:3 says that our sufferings produce endurance or perseverance. In other words, it strengthens us and fine tunes us for the work that God has for us in the kingdom.

So, today I am working on being joyful. I am focusing on how He has blessed me and kept me through it all. I am reflecting on how I am stronger than I was yesterday and so much wiser than I was a year ago. I am remembering that I serve a God that does not put more on us that we can bare and who will never forsake His children. I am working on counting it ALL joy.

Falling in Love

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With Valentine’s Day being last week, I could not help but think about my first love. I remember being so excited, so head over heels, and so passionate about my new love. I wanted to tell everyone about Him and to declare my love from the rooftops! I have never experienced something so refreshing, uplifting, and comforting. I never wanted that feeling to go away and never thought that it would. Unfortunately, it did. My first love was Jesus and those first moments were so special and tender.

As I got older and continued to grow, it seemed that I had moments where those feelings were not present. Where I felt fairly distant from my first love. I was living life and doing the “right” things but it just was not the same. I failed to realize that like other relationships it would take time, effort, and attention to maintain and deepen that bond. It took me a while to learn what that would look like and would truly require of me. I needed to give Him my all daily like I did in the beginning.

What I discovered through all of that is that I can fall in love with Jesus on a daily basis. I can have that same giddy feeling over and over again because we can constantly reconnect on a deeper and deeper level. Everyday I learn new things about Him, His love for me, and how even through the difficult times He has never abandoned me. As the song goes, “Falling in Love with Jesus, is the best thing I have ever done.”

Marriage Mondays: A Moses Experience

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My husband and I experienced a great deal of hardship early in our marriage with the passing of our first child, Nia. We ended up going to speak to a pastor at our church for counsel and guidance. In talking with her, several things came out that really spoke to me and our situation. One of those things was that she described what we went through as our ‘Moses Experience’. When she first said this, I was like huh? She went on to reference the scripture in the Bible when Moses had a physical encounter with God on Mount Sinai. When he came down from the mountain he was not the same Moses that went up the mountain.

Exodus 34:32-35 reads,

And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in
in commandment all that The Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai.
And til Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But
when Moses went in before The Lord to speak with him, he took the vail
off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of
Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the
face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the
vail upon his face again, until he went it to speak with him.

This scripture takes place after Moses spent forty days and forty nights on mount Sinai with The Lord. Exodus 34:28 says that he did not eat or drink during that entire time. As people, both Christians and non-Christians, it is difficult to fathom not eating or drinking for such a long period of time. Sure we fast nowadays, but most fasts are time-restricted or restrict your diet in some way, such as the Daniel fast. Can you imagine not eating or drinking for forty days? Can you imagine not being able to use your juicer to liquify fruits and vegetables, like many of us do for our liquid fasts? Or not being able to set your alarm clock to 6pm to eat for our time restricted fasts? Can you even imagine being all alone on a mountain for forty days with no other person to fellowship with or complain to about how hard fasting can be? Moses had none of that, but he made it through and came out wiser and stronger than when he went up forty days prior. He depended solely on God for everything he needed. He allowed himself to be fully immersed in God and in God’s purpose for him at that time.

Moses’ face was different because he experienced something deeper than the physical. He had a spiritual encounter with God, he experienced God’s glory firsthand. After an experience like that you will never be the same. When my husband and I lost are baby girl we had a similar experience. No, we did not go up to a mountain, or fast for forty days. But we did have a spiritual encounter with God. It was an experience and an encounter that can either make you wiser or break you down, it can either strengthen you in your faith or cause you to wither, and you can come out on the other side of it with your face shining with God’s glory like Moses’ face or with your face battered and beaten by the storm.

When Moses descended from the mountain he brought forth the Ten Commandments. He did not come back from his encounter empty handed. He came back with something to show for what he went through, something that God gave him to bless the people and give Him glory. Like Moses, we all go through tests and trials. Challenge yourself to allow God to use you for His glory in every situation you go through. Imagine how bright the world would be if we all walked around with faces shining like Moses’ face and giving God the glory He deserves through our lives and testimonies.

What are you going through right now? How can you turn that into a Moses experience so that God gets the glory?

Preparing My Heart

Our son’s arrival is less than a month away. Naturally, we are so excited and of course there are some moments where we are afraid. I realized that I am still mourning and healing in many ways from the loss of Nia. At the same time, I have a little man coming very soon and I need to prepare. I have written previously about the nesting that most soon to be moms experience in third trimester. The nesting that involves preparing the house, decorating the baby’s room, deep cleaning the home, etc. And while that is certainly going on over here (poor Joe as my parents would say), I saw that I needed to prepare for my son in another, very important way. I needed to prepare my heart.

I read so many stories and articles on moms who lost a child to stillbirth and how they felt when their next child was born. I have to be honest that some of it scared me. I suppose that is why my doctors tell me to stop googling stuff! Some of the articles and forums were full of mothers sharing how they felt detached from the new baby, how they experienced severe postpartum depression, or how they kept seeing the child that they lost instead of the child currently in their arms. I read those articles and my immediate response was “O, surely that will not be me!” I just assumed that I would feel different than these women. As I continued to think about it, I realized that I need to prepare my heart to receive this blessing and I had to do more than just say that I would not feel how they felt. But I had no idea where to start. Of course, I started googling for articles on preparing for a new baby after a stillbirth, but I was not finding what I felt I needed. The articles that were popping up were all about the childbirth experience and going back to the hospital. So, like I should have done from the beginning, I turned to the word of God.

I needed to first rejoice in the beautiful miracle happening inside of me. To stop fearing what could happen and what did happen and truly rejoice in what God was doing now. I saw that in Psalms 127:3,
Children are a blessing from the Lord; the fruit of the womb a reward.

I needed to gain strength and courage from God in preparing to become a mother again. One of my favorite scriptures is 2 Corinthians 2:9,

My grace is enough; it is all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

I also needed to allow myself to get excited about the pregnancy and my son. I used to feel like I had to in some ways suppress it because I did not want to get too attached. I was living in fear and not enjoying a moment of the pregnancy. I had to let all of that go, trust God and get excited! I had to allow myself to feel joy when I saw his little face and body during the ultrasounds, to feel excitement when he does those belly shaking moves, to sing songs and talk to my son with joy and hope, and to share my feelings with those around me.

And, I needed to pray for my son. I quickly noticed that initially all of my prayers were geared around one thing, fear. I would pray that the pregnancy would go well and that I would not have to endure what I endured previously. I would pray that my son would live. I got so caught up in praying for my fears that I forgot that this is the child that God promised me. While, I still pray for those things, particularly in moments where I feel weak and afraid I tend to focus most of my prayers now on his life. I thank God for his life, I pray that he will grow to be a strong man of God, I pray for his future, I pray for his wife and children. I also pray that God would continue to equip Joe and I to be the parents for him and all of our future children that God has called us to be.

Amazingly enough, focusing on not just preparing our home, but also on preparing my heart for my son has given me so much peace. I know that we are bringing him home and I want to work to make sure that my heart is ready to receive such a wonderful blessing!