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.

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.

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?

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?

Of the Abundance of the Heart

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You may have noticed by now that I reference a scripture from the book of Proverbs very frequently. I did not really notice that until a certain someone (my mother!) brought it to my attention. When I was in middle school, I thought that I was beyond cool and in an effort to fit in with those around me I started using profanity regularly at school. One day, I just so happened to write in my friends slam book (I am not sure if you remember what those were) and I used some of my school language in the note. My teacher got a hold of it and sent a copy of it to my mother who was floored. Needless, to say I got punished in multiple ways! My mother always felt that the punishment should somehow fit the crime. So since I was being foolish in my written speech (and verbal) I needed to gain some wisdom and I needed to do it by writing over and over again. She did not have me write anything like I will not use bad language or I will be respectful. That would have been too easy and it would not have given me that wisdom that she said I needed. So she sat down and opened the Bible. After a quick debate to herself as to whether I should write from Isaiah (because of its length) or Proverbs (because of the wisdom she hoped I would gain) she of course chose Proverbs. I spent my entire summer writing the book of Proverbs FIVE times! Guess who does not use profanity anymore! Yep- This girl!

What I realize now as an adult is that the book of Proverbs is very much engrained in me and often times serves as my go to book when I am in need of encouragement, clarity, and truth. By having me write that book over and over again I truly have many of those scriptures engrained in my mind and now my heart. As I was reflecting on this, a scripture came to mind (That is not from Proverbs! See I read other scriptures!) Luke 6:45,
“ A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”

My mother taught me a valuable lesson. At that point in time, like so many others my heart was full of what the world wanted it to be full of. I was trying so hard to be cool and fit in that I lost sight of what I was allowing to enter my heart through the music I would sneak and listen to on the bus, the shows that I would watch, and the conversations at school that I sat in on and became a part of. My heart was full but not of the word of God. I was being attacked and she knew that the only way to stop that attack was with the word of God and prayer (and a belt here and there). I learned to hide the word in my heart so that I may not sin against God (Psalm 119:11). I also learned that having the word in your heart gives you access to so much of His strength. You can speak the word over your life and situation without the Bible present in front of you. When Joe and I were in the hospital, I was shocked at how the first thing we turned to in that situation was the Word of God for encouragement and strength. I believe that without it, I may have needed to be checked into the mental ward.

As of late, I have been reflecting on Luke 6:45 in terms of the words that I speak to and over others. When I have moments where I am feeling down or negative I start to question what my heart is full of at that time. It is easier to take a quick assessment and know when I need more of Him. I want to be a constant source of encouragement and love to everyone I encounter. I am so far from that right now but it is something that I am definitely reaching towards and I would love it if you all would hold me accountable.

What about you? What is your heart full of today? How is that affecting you and those around you?

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Building or Tearing Down?

Today, as I was checking out Aisha’s blog over at oldfashioncouple.wordpress.com I felt convicted. Reading through her posts allowed me to recognize another area that I am weak in when it comes to being a wife, homemaking. Now, I am not saying that my home is always dirty and things are all over the place, but I do have this image in my mind of what I want things to be like. Somehow, through my daily routine that does not always occur. I usually wake up in the morning and plan out my day while still lying in bed. I decide the main things I will focus on for work, business, and for home. Day in and day out, it seems like my list for home gets neglected after everything else has stolen my attention.

It reminded me of the importance to not just maintain a clean home but to build your home as a wife in every way. Proverbs 14:1 says,
“ The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”
So I had to sit back and ask myself, am I building or am I tearing down? There is so much depth to that question. It is important to me that I am creating an environment that is conducive to the growth and development of my family. An environment that is filled with love, order, and productivity. I want my guests to feel the same thing when they enter my home. It is important to me that I lean on the Word of God for wisdom on how to steward my home and family as a wife and mother.

Therefore, I have decided to start working towards those goals by focusing in two areas: my words and order. I have mentioned it before, but I always saw myself as a wordsmith. And not in a positive way. I took pride in my ability to use my tongue to cut someone down despite their physical stature or social status. I now want to use that to bless others more and encourage them, especially my husband. I want to uplift him as the strong man of our home. For me, this has definitely gotten easier over the years. I learned rather quickly when I got married that Proverbs 25:15 is so true! (“With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.”) The way that I speak to and honor my husband directly translates in so many areas, particularly the way my son will learn to speak to others and the way he will expect his future wife to speak to him.

As far as order is concerned, I love it. I love organization and structure. The problem is that I do not always follow through with it, although I can devise a great plan and system. My primary goal in this area is to bring more order to my home by maintaining it better on the surface- more consistently. Consistency in this area is my biggest struggle.  I want to work to maintain the cleanliness of my home on a daily basis. I also want to get better with meal planning and cooking because I want to build my family’s physical health and financial health as well. So those are the two areas I will be focusing on for awhile. I feel like Proverbs 14:1 is not something that I will master and then be able to move on. It will be something to constantly strive toward and over time I will continue to identify areas in my life that need improvement and change. For now, words and order is on the agenda!

What about you? Are you building or tearing down? What are some things you want to work on in this area?