Stop Signs and Red Lights

A few months ago, Nehemiah went through this phase where he did not like to sit still in his carseat… at all. It seemed as though he felt like carseat = movement/driving/etc and if he was not doing any of those things he should not have been in it. One evening as we were riding home we came to a stop light and he began to get upset. I started to speak to him about being patient. As I was talking, I realized that there was a message in those words for me. I told him how sometimes God places red lights and stop signs in certain places to protect us, comfort us, save us, etc. Those pauses in life may come at the most inopportune times from our point of view, but they are essential. It is during those times that we grow and learn. We have the opportunity to take a look back at where we have been and to focus on where we are headed.
I am starting to learn to appreciate those brief pauses in the road. I am learning to see those red lights and stop signs as blessings instead of obstacles that I must hop over immediately. I am beginning to view them as God’s way of saying “hold on one second… its almost ready for you”, or “you are almost ready” or even “watch out!” I am thankful that Nehemiah has learned to be patient at those stop signs and red lights. My prayer is that I would be able to apply the same principles to my everyday life.

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

Feeling Stuck

There have been so many times where I have just felt stuck. Stuck in my relationship with God, Stuck in my career, stuck in my marriage, stuck in my friendships… just stuck! I have always felt the need to make sure that I am progressing. I get joy out of that in the most simple ways, like checking off an item on my to do list.

Over the years, I have come to learn that being busy does not mean that you are truly moving forward. At times I am so “busy” that I am literally running in circles, no forward movement to be seen. I have felt like this particularly lately when it comes to my career. I frequently feel as though no progress is being made and I am simply wading in the water. Before going out on leave I would create a daily to do list and see how many items I could check off by the time 4pm rolled around. I used that list, with the neatly placed checked marks, as a measure of my success and progress for the day. By 4:05pm that feeling of progress waned and the feeling of being stuck returned.

My desire to progress or to be successful is often a distraction. I can easily get so wrapped up in  where I feel like I should be career wise and in other aspects of life that I quiet God’s voice within me. Perhaps I am feeling stuck because I am hard-headed, or maybe it’s fear. Maybe I am chasing the wrong things with the wrong motivation or even listening and taking advice from the wrong people.

When these feelings arise I know that I need to take a step back. I have to quiet everything around me and focus on His face. I have to (in the words of one my favorite celebrity families) get out of my own feelings and remember why I am here. I have to remember that it is not about me, it is all about Jesus and how I can be a blessing to His Kingdom. When I am feeling stuck or stagnant, I know it is time for a perspective shift.

To Work or Not to Work?

So my six weeks are officially up! I am grateful, however that I am able to apply some additional time to extend my leave basically through to the summer. Since I work for a school I have the summer off so it worked out perfectly. As the weeks continue to pass us by I am consumed with thoughts on whether or not I should return to work. I am enjoying my time with Nehemiah and I love being able to do more around the house. Growing up I never saw myself as a stay at home mom. I just knew that I would always have a career. I wanted to have it all. To be successful in my career, have a wonderful marriage, wonderful kids, and a great home life overall. In those thoughts my home was always clean, the dishes always washed, laundry always done, and dinner ready for my family by 6:30pm! There was not any stress or feelings of being overwhelmed. And I never have to compromise in any area to get it all done.

Now we are in the process of deciding what would truly be best for our family. And I am so torn! I really enjoy working, but I would really like to work for myself. I love being home when Joe comes home from work. I love when he walks in and sees a clean house and a clean and happy baby. I also love being able to contribute to my family financially. And to be honest, Joe and I have some financial goals that we really want to knock out sooner than later. So what’s it gonna be? At this point, I have no idea… I am planning to return to work but I am praying that I will be able to discontinue that and somehow work for myself. Besides who wouldn’t want to be around this sweet face all day long?

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Have you had to make the decision between staying home or going to work? What factors did you consider? What did you ultimately decide?

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?

One Year Later

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This past weekend marked exactly one year since we learned that we lost our daughter Nia Audrey. Nia was stillborn on April 5, 2013 and it was and still is the most horrific thing I have ever had to endure. The blessing is that we endured it and we are here a year later able to share our experience and testimony. I honestly have been thinking about this post for a few weeks. So many emotions have overcome me in these last few days that it was hard for me to focus enough to sit down and write this post. I have come to realize that blogging and sharing with you all is therapeutic for me. It is apart of my healing process and an opportunity for me to continuously give God glory for what He is doing in our lives.

For a long time, I wondered what God wanted us to see or learn through that experience. I wondered why He allowed us to go through such pain. I wondered how He was going to use what we went through to help others. I still do not have the answers to those questions completely but I do know that Nia was purposed. I do know that if she did nothing else in her short time with us, she changed me. Not only did she make me a mom, but she made me stronger and wiser. Nia gave me a testimony. Through the loss of our precious baby girl I learned what it felt like to suffer. I learned what it meant to give up something and someone that meant so much to you without a choice. I learned how to truly press into God.

I spent much of last summer in tears. I would lay on the floor in the nursery or the living room and just cry out to the Lord. I begged Him to hear my cry. I asked Him to heal me from the inside out. I asked Him to make me stronger. I asked Him to let me smile again, to feel joyful again. I asked Him for total and complete restoration. I discovered that He is so merciful and full of grace. He gave me all of that and more. I found my healing in writing and sharing my story. I found my healing in His word, in the stories of women in the Bible who struggled with pregnancy or the desire to bear children, in the stories of the many men and women who overcame major obstacles because of their faith and trust in God. I found my healing in the face of my firstborn child.

I saw firsthand how Nia’s birth into heaven changed the people around me. I saw my family come together. I have heard the testimonies of healing and breakthrough in the lives of those who heard our story. My relationship with my husband is stronger and our bond deeper. And the love I feel for my son, Nehemiah is powerful. As a result of Nia I will be a better mother and wife, most importantly I will be a better disciple of Christ.

Nehemiah coming into our family has been such a dream come true. Joe and I decided early on that he would always know about his big sister, Nia. When we got pregnant so soon after Nia many people seemed concerned that we were trying to replace her. Anyone who has gone through what we have knows that replacing Nia with another child is impossible. We already speak to him now about his big sister, how she is his guardian angel, and how she changed our lives for the better. He will grow up knowing all about her and the impact she made in her short time with us.
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So, this past weekend Joe and I celebrated our firstborn. I am going to try my hardest for it not to be a time to go back to sadness too much, but to instead rejoice in what this past year has meant for us. I will always miss my sweet baby girl. I will always wonder what her eyes would have looked like, what her cry would have sounded like, what kind of voice she would have had, if she would have been tall like her dad or petite like me. I am choosing to find peace in knowing that she is in heaven with the best daddy there is.

Happy Birthday Nia Audrey! Mommy, Daddy, and Nehemiah love you and miss you so much!

Nursery Reveal

So Nehemiah has arrived (5 weeks early and all) and the nursery is finally complete! I guess it is a good thing that I did not wait until last minute to get everything done!

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I really stuck to what I put on the mood board for his room and tried to include as many elements as I could (although some were a bit too pricey and had to be cut).

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All of the wall art was made by Joe and myself and although he is probably glad to be done and to not have to hear my mouth about it all anymore, we both really enjoyed putting it altogether for our little man.

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Here is a reminder of what I planned for the room.

Nursery Mood Board

The only thing that is not pictured above is the bookshelf (the books are not placed on there in a presentable way) and the changing table (there is not anything special about it at all and like the bookshelf it is not really organized well). Now, the challenge will be in organizing and keeping his closet clean! Oh someday soon son you will be the one responsible for keeping your room clean and organized! Until then, mommy will be pestering daddy about the best way to keep your closet organized!

 

Most of the pictures in this post were taken by my brother, Korey Walker, aka the iPhone photographer! HAHAHAHA!

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.”