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!

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.

Nehemiah’s Birth Story

As a result of our prior history, we were scheduled to be induced to deliver Nehemiah at 37 weeks and a few days. Obviously, God had other plans. We went in for our regularly scheduled ultrasound appointment at 35 weeks and a few days. The ultrasound tech was completing a biophysical profile (BPP) on him just to be sure that he was doing okay and moving like he should. Nehemiah was moving like crazy all the way up to the appointment and decided to chill when we got there. His score on the BPP was like a 2 out of 8 and caused a red flag for the ultrasound tech who sent us across the hall immediately for furthering monitoring in the Non-Stress Test  (NST) room. At this point, I am flipping out a little on the inside. Naturally, the nightmares from what happened last April began to flood my brain. I felt so paralyzed with fear and anxiety that I could not even find the words to pray.

While I was being hooked up to the NST machine my doctor happened to be walking down the hall and heard my name. She immediately came in and decided that they would need to take the baby out immediately. My heart sank! All I could think about was my baby coming out safe and alive. My doctor is so wonderful though! We prayed and prayed and prayed that God would lead us to the right doctor. We ended up choosing the doctor who delivered us last time although she was not the doctor I was seeing throughout my pregnancy with Nia. She has been so comforting to us throughout the entire pregnancy and I am grateful that God led us to her.

So they told us to go downstairs to labor and delivery and I started to panic. My doctor sensed this and grabbed us and told us that she would walk us down and get us set up. I could hear  the doctors and nurses in the hallway calling to get the operating room cleared so that I could be delivered and I felt my heart drop even more. This was not my plan! I never wanted a c-section! I did not want to have an emergency delivery! I did not have everything together the way I wanted it to be! Our apartment was a mess! We still had baby clothes to wash and I was in no way mentally prepared to deal with everything…or so I thought. Proverbs 16:9 reads,
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” I realized that things were not happening according to my plan, but the were happening according to God’s. It took some time, but I had to find peace and comfort in that.

I was hooked up to a machine that monitored his heartbeat and suddenly he was moving all over the place. The doctors then decided that I would not have to deliver immediately and could wait eight hours for my breakfast to be digested (and all I ate that morning was an english muffin!). During that time, we were able to contact our families and some friends to let them know what was going on and the love and support starting flowing in! The eight hours flew by and before I knew it I was laying on the operating table waiting to meet my little man!

Nehemiah Joseph was born at 35 weeks and weighed 6 lbs and 6 oz! He spent a week and a half adjusting to life in the NICU and is now home and healthy! Thank You Jesus!

Thank you so much for all the prayers, love, and support

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!

I’m So Happy For You!

                         “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15

That scripture hit me like a ton of bricks one day. It definitely felt like the world kept moving even though I was down  and out last Spring/Summer. People kept having healthy babies, getting engaged and married, buying houses, etc. They were living life and from what I could tell they were happy while I was at home feeling miserable and unable to walk on my own. It used to bother me so deeply when someone would text me or call me and tell me that this person just had their baby and how adorable they were. Or that someone else had just purchased a home and it was beautiful. I would hear of how this person or that person was expecting and the entire family was so excited. All I could think of was how I once felt like that. I envied their innocence. You see when nothing bad has ever happened to you in a particular area it is so easy to be almost child like in your excitement. It is also very difficult to get that feeling back once you have experienced the other side.

So what is a girl like me to do? I was so hurt and heartbroken but I felt horrible that I was not able to truly be happy for other people. Then I realized that I did not want their house or baby. I wanted my baby and she was gone. I realized that just like I have my burdens and heartaches, so do others. Finally, I realized that if I continued like I was that I would be an ugly person on the inside. So I prayed about it. I prayed that God would grant me peace, that I would be able to be happy for my friends and loved ones without considering myself, that I would learn to be selfless in my thoughts and actions towards others, and that I would learn to be a better friend. I wanted to be able to rejoice with them. I then started praying for my friends. I prayed that they would all bring healthy babies home, that they would never experience the pain that I felt as I buried my first child, and that those children would be blessed.

I always wondered why I was surrounded by so many people who were having babies at the same time! I mean it is like non-stop! But it is such a blessing and has enabled me to grow so much in so many ways. I am thankful to God for granting me peace and for blessing my friends with healthy babies. I am looking forward to next month when you all will also be able to rejoice with me as we bring our baby boy home!

Of the Abundance of the Heart

Source

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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Pregnancy Update

Well, I do not do many of these at all. But I decided to do something different this week. This coming weekend we will be in month number eight and officially in the homestretch. I can say that I am truly excited and believing that we are bring this baby home. I still have moments of extreme fear or flashbacks to what happened the last time. But we are trying so hard to remain faithful and continue believing God for His best.

From day one, my mother has called this baby the Promised Child. He is my dream come true and truly an answer to my prayers. God does not make promises He does not plan to keep so I try to also keep that in mind when I am having a difficult moment. Other than those moments, things are going great! We are entering the phase where we have so many appointments due to our last experience. So I get to see my baby weekly, sometimes multiple times a week, which I love! We also get updates on his weight which is kind of exciting. I had no idea last time how big Nia was and was shocked that my little body could produce an eight pounder! This time they are monitoring his weight closely so I am not sure that he will grow to that size in the womb. At 28 weeks he was almost three pounds so I am excited to see how much he weighs next week.

This baby is also super active. I have never seen or felt some of the acrobatics he does daily, but I love every second of it. Even the movements when he rocks my belly so hard it hurts. I still consider those movements sweet reminders that my God is faithful.

So as we continue our journey through this pregnancy I just ask for your support and prayers.

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Well…

It’s my birthday!!!  I am so grateful to see another birthday. But I want to be honest and say that I have cried off and on today for at least an hour. This year has been interesting. I realize that I always tend to reflect on the past year on my birthdays. This year I lost an aunt, daughter, great-aunt, and great-uncle. I have gained a new church family and new friends. I have a wonderful job with a supervisor who truly knows God and has my best interest at heart and co-workers that are encouraging and supportive. Joe and I have been pushed to a new level in our marriage and have learned that we are truly life partners. I have gotten to know God in a more intimate way and I can feel myself changing as a result. My family as a whole is closer and stronger. Finally, God has blessed my family to still grow despite the losses. Joe and I are expecting our second baby and we are so thankful for God’s hand over our lives.

For the longest, I wanted to keep this pregnancy a secret. After my mom and others kept asking me why I was not telling people I took some time to pray about it and really consider why I felt how I felt. I struggle with anxiety, worry, and stress regarding this pregnancy. I realize that I miss the innocence that most pregnant women have when they are pregnant and have never suffered a loss. I miss how I felt with my last pregnancy. Everything was so exciting and new and beautiful! Now, things just constantly worry me and I have to fight daily to control my thought life. I wanted to keep it a secret so that I could protect myself somehow, so that I could protect the people that were hurt the last time. I saw that this was not possible. I realized that God could not get the glory if I did not share my full story. So I am letting go. We pray daily (almost constantly) for this child and pregnancy. We pray for his or her life while they are in the womb, and that his or her life would glorify God when they are out. We pray that God’s hand of protection will cover him/her for life, that they will grow to truly love the Lord, and that he/she will have a servant’s heart.

So… as a birthday gift… I am now asking that you all would also intercede on our behalf. Thank you for supporting us through everything and we look forward to celebrating with you very soon!