Marriage Mondays: Service Charge!

Joe and I always joke around about taking a service charge when we do something for each other. Typically the charge involves food. For example, if I ask Joe to pass me a bowl of popcorn he would take a few off the top and yell, “service charge!” In response, I would make a little face at him and we laugh. The same happens when he asks me to do stuff that involves a snack. As I was reflecting on the little playful phrase between the two of us and even thinking of how we borrowed the term from banks I started to think about God and how it would be if He service charged us. Can you imagine how that would be? Every time we took a breath God would yell, “service charge!” and take our breath away for a short time. Or every time we sat down to eat He would yell, “service charge!” and scoop half the food off of our plates.

Thankfully, He is not that kind of God and we do not have to worry about those things with Him. Likewise, we should not have to worry about them with our spouse. So often, I hear individuals saying that their significant other owes them this or that because of what they did for them. I even catch myself having that same mentality from time to time and I immediately feel convicted. In a marriage conference we attended a little while back the presenters talked about the importance of serving one another in marriage. Not just serving, but constantly working to out serve the other. I was reminded of John 13:1-17, where Jesus washed the disciples feet. He was showing them the importance of serving one another, in love. Verse 17 reads,

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

I just want to encourage you to apply the same principles to your marriage today. Joe and I have definitely not mastered this concept, but we are both striving to out serve each other daily. We have witnessed firsthand the difference this has made in our relationship as we take the focus off of ourselves and place it where it belongs, on God first and then each other. As the word says, “you will be blessed if you do them.”

How can you work to out serve your spouse today?

Marriage Mondays: How I See Me vs How He Sees Me

A friend and I were talking the other day about how our bodies have not bounced right back after having our babies. It is so easy to look at celebrities and even other women that we know and love in our own lives and wonder why it seems so easy for them and so difficult for us. I often look down at my little pooch belly with pride and thankfulness because I know that God has blessed my womb to carry two babies so far and that more are to come. However, I do not always feel confident when it comes to what my shape now looks like.

I did not really realize that this was a problem until my husband’s compliments to my body begin to feel like insults. When he would look over at me and tell me that I am beautiful or sexy I would cringe on the inside because I disagreed. I would instantly take a quick inventory of the parts of my body that need some work. I thought about the stretch marks, extra folds of skin, and the incision from my c-section (though barely visible it is HUGE to me!). Yet and still he would have this look in his eyes that let me know that he really did believe what he was saying. This dude really does think I am sexy!

It took a while for me to come to terms with that and to even see the parallel between this and how God views us. I am thankful that Joe loves me… stretch marks and all (as he should of course!). I am even more thankful that God loves me through all of my mess.

Did you ever have body image issues after having kids? How did you deal with it? How did/does your spouse make you feel?

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?

Why the Name Nehemiah?

When we first found out we were having a son we decided that his name was going to start with a J. I loved the thought of having a house full of children with all J names (kind of like one of my favorite reality TV families, the Duggars!). We sat down and discussed a variety of names and finally settled on one that we liked… or so we thought. The name was biblical and as we studied and read more about the individual in the Bible who carried this name the more we knew it was not the right name for our son. With our first child, Nia we decided that we were going to name our kids with N names and came up with a short list of boy and girl names and Nehemiah was on that list. My fear led me away from that name for a long time, even though I loved it and loved what it meant.

Eventually, when reevaluating our name choice the name Nehemiah came up again and we just knew that it was right for him. In the Bible, Nehemiah was the person who basically grabbed the reins and rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. He led the charge and took initiative. The biggest thing for me in his story is that he REBUILT the wall. As a family, we needed to be rebuilt. God was making us stronger through everything. I really feel like this past year has helped to prepare us to be better…better spouses, better friends, better parents, etc. In a lot of ways it has been our rebuilding year. A season where we have been able to really refocus on God and our personal relationships with Him. A time where we have been able to pursue different things that we have avoided or been afraid to start (like this blog). A year where God has truly been able to work on us from the inside out.

Finally, Nehemiah means ‘to be comforted by God’. That meaning really struck me because through it all that was one of my prayers. I prayed that God would comfort me. I prayed that He would hear my cry. I prayed that He would answer me and let me know that it was truly Him. God is so good and so merciful… He sent me Nehemiah.

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!