What Postpartum Feels Like

It’s April 1st, and my Christmas wreath is still hanging on our front door.

Let that be an indication of how things are “going” in our household.

My Facebook profile picture is still a maternity shot of me…and my baby boy who was born in December, is now 3 1/2 months old. So…

I’m a little (or a LOT) behind on laundry, vacuming, grocery shopping (since the ALDI incident), and pretty much every other area of life right now.

I haven’t been writing, because I feel empty inside. And have nothing to say.

I nurse my baby boy constantly, while my 4-year-old begs me to play Candy Land with her, and watch her magic tricks, and cries when I don’t look at her while she’s talking. (So, she cries a lot.) I fold laundry and cook dinner with one hand. Or not at all.

Sometimes, I forget to start dinner, and pull out the rock hard frozen chicken breast at 3:30 p.m. And it’s a frozen pizza for dinner, instead.

The Keurig light blinks, “Not Ready–Add Water…” And that’s pretty much how I feel right now. Like the canteen is dry, and blinking. And being constantly depleted.

And this is how postpartum feels, sometimes. And the jump from one to two kids is harder than I imagined it would be. It’s so good–it’s just that my weaknesses are showing through more than ever.

My Scripture reading is scant–unless an Instagram graphic counts. And I’m pretty sure just playing the “Bethel” station on my Spotify on my phone isn’t quite giving my soul the intimacy with God I need.

Our house is filled with chaos and noise–a beautiful sound in contrast with the years of quietness and crying out for children.

But now that they’re here, it’s strange how the barrenness can creep back into my soul.

And I’m reminded again–that it is God, and only God that truly satisfies the longing soul.

Sometimes my daughter leaves the caps off her markers. This week I picked up the orange marker to write down a phone number, but the cap had been off. It was bone dry. It made a mark, but just barely. I tried to press harder–and the color just barely came through.

I’ve felt a lot like that orange marker lately.

Like, the cap has been off for a while now.

I’m pressing hard–but just barely coming through.

And my soul is dry like that marker.

I’ve felt all kinds of different emotions lately. I know part of it is due to postpartum hormones, and nursing an infant, and clutter around my house, and driving my daughter to preschool while my son wails. And being so tired. All the time.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE being a mom. There are these beautiful moments that simply take my breath away.

But there are other moments, that simply take my sanity away.

Like when my baby is crying because he wants to be held or nursed, and I haven’t gotten to eat anything yet and it’s 10:30 a.m. And my stomach is growling. And my 4-year-old daughter is crying because I didn’t let her screw on the cap of the sippy cup, and my son poops through his outfit and needs a bath. And his poop leaked onto the shirt I’m wearing. And when I pass myself in the mirror, I look much like Miss Hanigan on Annie. (Not the new Cameron Diaz version, but the ugly one from the 80’s version.)

Sometimes, all three of us are crying at the same time.

 

Sometimes, it feels like we are at a nut house.

When my son fell asleep yesterday, I put a show on for my daughter and locked myself in my room–just so I could drink a hot cup of coffee and straighten my hair. Just to feel “normal.”

It didn’t really help. But my hair looked better than it has in a long time. 😉

And I finally realized something: my soul is parched.

I am in a season of drought. 

Even as I write this–I am in a season of drought.

But I found some hope yesterday, and I’m clinging to it, wrapping both my arms and legs around it, and not letting go.

During one of my nursing sessions on the couch–I made a very feeble attempt to read my Bible. I one-handedly flipped open my it open to Jeremiah 17.

I have always loved this Scripture–but God met me through it in a new way.

It says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.” Jeremiah 17:5-6

As I read, I was realizing:

Yes. That is me. Trying to make my own flesh my strength. My heart departing from the Lord. A shrub in the desert. Dwelling in the parched places of the wilderness. 

I might have walked away depressed if I stopped there. But I kept reading. And found this,

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in a year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

And here I find my hope.

Because even the man who trusts in the LORD—goes through times of drought.

And when he does, he does not grow anxious.

He does not fear–when heat comes. (Not if heat comes, but when it comes.)

So, right now, in my dry, chaotic state of mind, as I am parched and weary–I put my trust in the LORD.

Indeed, my trust is the LORD. It has to be. And not my weary self.

Even in a year of drought, I am not to grow anxious.

(I really hope it’s not a full year of drought.) But, however long this drought lasts, I don’t have to be anxious and fearful.

I can’t “feel” God close right now. But He is. My mind is dull, and distracted, and I can’t engage how I would like to.

And I’m thirsty inside.

But in my thirst–I still have hope.

Because He promises to quench me. In His time.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

In my unrighteousness, I thirst for His righteousness. And He will fill me. He promises this.

I hope you know, I’m not writing from the other side of this. I am in a dry place right now.

But, I have to share this, because I think someone reading this might be in a dry season, too. Maybe it’s you.

Maybe you are in a postpartum state. And maybe not. But either way, maybe you too, feel like a dried up marker.

Trying to make a mark, and pressing hard…but just barely coming through.

Who feels depleted. Who wakes up each day like the blinking Keurig. “Not ready. Add Water.”

Who wants to have it together–but doesn’t.

If you are, you’re not alone. Because I am in this place, too.

And then, there’s Jesus… I have to believe He will come for us. That He will meet us in our drought. Because…

He  calls out to the thirsty.

And thirst is good. Because it makes us realize how desperate we are–for Him.

I don’t know when the rains will come. But they will come.

He will come. He has to. 

And though I feel like it has been a long time, in this drought season. I see a cloud. It’s only as small as a man’s hand. But I see a cloud…and rain is coming.

Jesus is coming. For us.

For the dry markers. And empty Keurig’s. And the barren lands. The souls thirsting for water.

I’m not afraid to admit: I’m thirsty. I’m dry. And I need Him. 

Because He will send the rain. He promises this.

“For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm 107:9

and

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

So let it rain God. 

I am thirsty for You. 

And You alone. 

 


You may also enjoy listening to this song by Kari Jobe, “Let Your Glory Fall.”

The God of Empty Rooms

 

Our first apartment was the size of a postage stamp. And I didn’t think about it so much then. Empty rooms. Because we didn’t have any.

But when we bought our first house. There was this one room. It was painted a beautiful shade of pink and had the name “Hannah” on the wall. It was a nursery when the realtor had showed us the house.

And I hoped one day…it would be a nursery for us, too.

But after we moved in, it was just…empty.

And it stayed empty. For months, even years.

(Read my infertility story here.)

We wanted it to be filled. We prayed for a baby, we did.

Every time I would walk past that room, I would ache for a baby. Sometimes, I would keep the door shut, so I wouldn’t have to think about it. And other times, I would leave it wide open.

Sometimes I would throw junk in there when company was coming over. And other times, I would go in and clean it up. Really for no reason at all.

And then, sometimes, I would just go sit in there, by myself, and pray.

For a baby.

For God to fill this empty room.

To fill my empty womb. 

 

And, finally, one day, He did.

I say this with tears,

He did. 

(And the picture at the top of this post was taken in that empty room, after she came.)

But before she came, before she ever was breathed into my womb. God came.

He came into my emptiness.

He came like a flood. He came and saturated my barren soul with Himself.

And He showed me my womb was not empty. I was not empty. But full. Full of Him. Full of His Spirit. And therefore, I was alive.

I didn’t have a baby in my womb. But I had the Holy Spirit–who conquered Jesus’ tomb–living inside of me.

Dear Barren One,

You know that empty room in your house? The one you walk past and dream? The one you wish wasn’t an office, or a guest room, or a storage room full of junk, and so badly wish it was a nursery? You know that room?

God is there. 

Because He is the God of empty rooms. 

The God of empty wombs. 

And the God of empty tombs. 

Yes, He is God. The Giver of Life.

He is Jesus.

He defeated death. 

 

And is full of resurrection power. And life, life, life. 

So don’t stop asking. Don’t stop crying out.

Because He sees you. And He hears you. Cry.

To Him.

Go in your empty room, and worship Him there.

Because He is worthy.

And He fills.

He fills the empty space in that room.

He fills the empty place in your womb.

And your womb, dear one, may be empty, but don’t forget this one very important thing: the Spirit lives in you. The Spirit of God lives in you. He lives in you and makes you alive.

And of this you can be certain: He will fill your emptiness—with Himself.

Because He satisfies in the deepest places, and most empty spaces.

He comes. At your cry.

He comes rushing in, at the sound of your voice.

And even before.

“Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24)

Before you even ask Him, He hears you. Before the word is even on your tongue, He knows it completely. He hems you in, behind and before. And He knit you together in the secret place of your mother’s womb. (Psalm 39)

And He is God over your secret places. Your empty spaces.

And, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear…” (Isaiah 59:1)

So I just want to pray:

God,

You see her who is reading this. You know her. You formed her for Yourself and Your glory. And You are relentlessly pursuing her even now. You want all of her heart. All of it. Even this. And I pray that You come fill her. With Your Spirit. Come and fill the empty. With Yourself. 

We declare that You are God of the empty tomb, Jesus. You defeated death and sin. You made us new within. And the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead–is living inside of her. (Romans 8:11)

So let her not walk in death, but in life. Glorious life. Come make her alive in You. By Your Spirit. 

It is her desire that You fill her empty womb. And that you fill her empty room. 

Thank You that you are there now. Even now you are working in those empty places, and making them full. 

Full of You, God. 

Fill her room (or rooms) with whom You desire. In the time that You desire. For Your will is perfect. Whether they come from her womb, or from somewhere else. Whether it’s a baby, or a toddler. Whether this child comes from her state foster system, or from an orphanage across the ocean. Wherever this child comes from, we know he or she comes from You. And maybe it’s not a child, maybe it’s a teenager, or adult. Maybe it’s a whole family, coming to stay for a while. I don’t know, but you know. Either way…

Come fill the empty space, with grace. 

Come fill the empty place, with Jesus. 

And I pray that when she sees that empty room, she will not feel sad anymore. But feel hopeful. Because You are there.

You make the empty full. And You are the God of her empty room. Her empty womb. And the empty tomb. And You will fill her with Yourself and Your everlasting life. 

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen. 

 

[P.S. I was just about to publish this post and this song just came on my Spotify. I didn’t even know this song–but I don’t think it’s coincidence. The first lyrics are, “Before I call, before I ever cry, You answer me from where the thunder hides…” (the Scripture I was just referencing from Isaiah 65:24!) I literally have chills. Oh girls, God is in this. I really believe He is pursuing you. Right now. You are on the brink of something beautiful opening up inside you. So, I want to dare you to do something. Play this song in your “empty room” wherever it may be. Worship Him in that space. (Then play more songs, if you want to.) Let yourself go, and worship Him. He is totally there with you. The song is called “Fierce” by Jesus Culture, and you can play the youtube link by clicking here. ]

God Did It Again: Our Second Miracle On the Way

miracle baby

Dear Friends, this is a post I never intended to write. But here I am writing it, with tears in my eyes, and a lump in my throat. And my hands feel shaky at these keys:

I’m pregnant again.

God did it.

This will be our second miracle. And I had no idea, it was even coming. But all of a sudden, it’s here. Seemingly, out of no where. The only way a miracle can come–when you know full well that you have offered nothing. When you have brought nothing to the table, and God has brought everything. God brings a feast.

And He asks you to dine with Him. And you do, because your soul is starving. 

If you don’t already know it, I encourage you to read my story of infertility. In it, you will find a very broken woman, angry and confused and barely tolerating God’s “plan.” You will find a woman who is so very barren, not only in her womb, but in her soul. And you will find how God rescues her out of that barrenness–by showing her Himself, His very beauty, and that He satisfies.

My daughter Selah is three now. She is beautiful, like music. Like her name. And she was worth every tear I cried for her. Every minute I waited for her.

The last few years have been so full–of her–just learning this other person, this other creature God has placed in my care. I’ve got to see her grow out of her tiny newborn clothes into a lengthy three year old girl that looks older every minute. She won’t hold still, or slow down enough to let me just hold her and breathe her in. Sometimes it seems like she is sprinting through childhood, and I’m chasing her, always a few steps back, yelling, “Slow down!”

I remember how I cried when we took down her crib. I cried into my husbands shirt, and sobbed, “I’m just afraid we’ll never get to put it up again.” I felt like I was saying good-bye to this baby part of her, that I wasn’t ready to part with. Or put into storage.

And I didn’t know if God would give us any more children.

We prayed God would give us more, if He wanted us to have more. Even though, we were already beyond blessed to have even one beautiful child. Many don’t even get that.

For the last few years we’ve “tried” to conceive again. (But what is “trying” when you already have a child?) Interrupting cries during the “moment”, and a BBT thermometer that keeps disappearing from your nightstand and reappearing in your daughter’s toy box, and “charting” which was once graphed lines and fluids and temperatures, was now simply figuring out which cycle day I was on–which I was usually totally off on. Or we missed “the window” completely. Oops.

At the beginning of 2016, I felt the Lord gave me a theme for the year. Which was simply to have Open Arms.  I drew a stick figure of myself, with my arms out wide. And wrote: Open Arms: Because the posture of surrender, and the posture of worship, and the posture of receiving, is the same.

All I knew, is that God wanted me to keep my arms open. Wide open. Surrendering. Worshiping. And receiving from Him.

So in February, my husband and I felt like we needed to open our arms to fostering. This was something we talked about for a long time–and had many conversations about. My biggest hang up was, “I just don’t know if I could give the baby back.” I think most people struggle with that part of fostering, (the part that you have no control, and that your heart will probably be crushed in the process.) But, I clearly remember one day as we drove down I-79, as I told my husband all the reasons why it would be so “emotionally difficult” to foster, he gently reminded me, “It’s not about you. This is one thing in your life you get to do, that’s not about you.” Tears began to run down my face. It was that moment that it clicked for me. It’s not about me. It’s about helping someone else. At the most fragile state in their life.

The more we thought and prayed about it, the more we felt led to get certified to be foster parents. In our state, it’s only a 90 day process, and is actually very simple to do. We decided we would foster babies anywhere from newborn to under a year old, and we were really excited about it.

So in mid-April, we were nearing the end of all of our paperwork, training, and inspections. I felt so excited to lavish this baby with love. I was going to love this baby with everything, just as if he, or she was my own child. I knew my heart would probably get ripped out, but I felt that this baby deserved to be treated like they were the most long awaited, and long anticipated baby ever to be born.

So, we took down the guest room and made it into a full-blown nursery. I was happy to see the pretty white crib up again. Along with the glider and changing table. Everything looked crisp and white against the gray walls. I would walk past and wonder who the baby was that we would receive. And as I prayed, I kept seeing the words, “Precious One,” over the crib. So I ordered a pretty custom-made wall-sticker from Etsy to place over the crib. “Precious One,” is something I wanted to speak over and over this child.

And it was that week, that everything was set up in the nursery. The car seat was ready to go. And I had washed all the baby blankets in sweet-smelling Dreft–since that is what I would do for my own child–that our world would change: again.

My husband had picked up a pregnancy test on his way home from work, and I rolled my eyes when he handed it to me. “Why take a test?” I asked, “It just makes it harder!” I didn’t like taking pregnancy tests because they just played with emotions, I’d rather keep stuffed down.

And so, as he was tightening up the baby gates for the final home-inspection the next day, I went and took the test. I locked the door so that no one disturbed me. And that’s when I saw a very faint blue line cross the other: pregnant.

I fell to my knees right there on the bathroom floor.  And the lines blurred with my tears. And I thanked God, and gasped.

My husband came up, and I showed him the test, “Bekah!!” he exclaimed, hugging me, and we laughed. We could not believe it.

I was pregnant.

And in shock.

And in awe, of our very great God.

Today I am 9 weeks pregnant. So, it’s still early. I know we’re not guaranteed anything. I am not guaranteed even one more breath. But with all the breath in me, I will thank God for this miracle. And I will tell of His works.

And I will celebrate this life within me every day I have him, or her. For God knows this son or daughter. And He has already breathed out their name. His eyes see their unformed body, being knit together in the secret places of my womb. And all the days ordained for them have been written in His book, before one of them will come to be.

Dear friends, I had no idea that the child I was preparing for, was one in my womb. I had no idea the “Precious One” I had been praying for, would be living inside me. Can you fathom what God has done?

Surely, He is God. There is no one like Him. He alone can do wonders and miracles. He can even open the womb.

Lately, I am so tired. Can you pray for me, that I can keep my arms open? My heart open? I want to stay in the posture of surrender, and worship, and receiving as I carry this child. I haven’t  felt physically well, so we have decided to wait to take in a foster baby until sometime after our baby is born. However, this is something we pray we get to do in the future, because the need is so very great and urgent.

I want you to know, I will pray for you as well.

If you are barren, and even if you are not, my prayer is that you can open your arms. Wide. Ready to embrace whatever and whoever God has for you. I don’t know where it will lead. But it will be wild, and free, and full of God.

If you are still waiting and praying to get pregnant, please don’t let the news of my miracle discourage you. I know, it can feel defeating when you hear of other people’s pregnancies. Especially when they seem to come so easily.

But this miracle God has done in me should give you hope. Not despair.

Because if God can do a miracle in me, who has not even the faith, but rolls her eyes at the pregnancy test, He can surely do one in you as well.

I don’t know what it will look like. Or when. Or how.

But that’s what a miracle is. It’s a mystery. 

It’s a gift. It’s something of God. 

When you find yourself with nothing to offer. 

You are in the perfect place. 

Open your empty arms. To Him.

And say,

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:25-26

For surely He will satisfy. Surely, He will be your portion.

4 Lies The Barren Woman Believes–Part 4

God has forgotten me

Today, is Lie #4 of the “4 Lies the Barren Woman Believe” mini-series.  Be sure to check out Lie #1, Lie #2, and Lie #3 leading up to this one, if you missed them. And may the Truth set you free!

Lie #4: God has forgotten me, otherwise, He would have given me a baby by now.

Truth: God never forgets.

And He has such tender words to the barren woman in Isaiah 54 (I encourage you to read that chapter):

Do you know what God tells the barren woman to do?  Sing.

(Sounds crazy, I know.) But, He first tells her to “sing,” and lift up her voice. Because He is going to enlarge her territory. And next He says, “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated…” (Isaiah‬ ‭54:4‬a ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬)‬‬

But isn’t that the fear…that you will be ashamed? Disgraced? Humiliated? Forgotten?

These fears come from the evil one, and not from your Abba Father.

Maybe your body has failed you, maybe people have failed you, or you have failed people. But you know what? He never fails. His love never fails. And so you can put your hope in Him.

He says, “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but My steadfast love shall not depart from you, and My covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah‬ ‭54:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬)‬‬‬‬

You can put your hope completely in Him. No matter what happens this week, this month, or this year. His steadfast love shall not depart from you.

And then He says,
“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭54:11‬‬‬)‬‬

I don’t understand all of Isaiah 54 in it’s entirety, or what is symbolic and what is literal. But here are some things that this chapter points about God’s character and His love for the “barren woman”:

He sees you.
He speaks tenderly to you.
You are not forgotten.
He is going to expand your territory.
His love for you will not be moved—even if the mountains come crashing down.
He will not fail or forsake you.
He will take away your shame. Forever.
He is building a beautiful foundation for your life.

Oh beautiful one reading this today, It’s time. It’s time to stop wallowing in the darkness. For He has ordained your life with purpose. Can you sense it?

Today, you are alive.
You are bursting with life–if His Spirit lives in you.

Today, you are Beloved Daughter.
You are precious, and honored in His sight.

Today, God is gracious and kind.
He delights to give you a thousand gifts you could never deserve.
And He is full of grace and truth.

Today, He is establishing His beautiful purpose for your life.

Today, may the Spirit of Truth come rushing in and cast out every lie. Every single one. So that you will know the Truth, and speak the Truth, and believe the Truth–and that the Truth will set you free.


 

Be sure to check out Lie #1, Lie #2, and Lie #3 leading up to this one, if you missed them. Or, some other posts you might like are:

“Where Is God When You Can’t Get Pregnant?”

Stop Waiting To Be Happy

That Moment You Decide You Want To Be A Mom

4 Lies The Barren Woman Believes–Part 3

lie 3 infertility

Today is Lie #3 of the the “4 Lies the Barren Woman Believes” mini-series. If you missed Lie #1 or #2, check out the two posts before this one. And may the Truth set you free!

Lie #3: I can’t have children because I am not good enough. If I were more “righteous” God would reward me with babies. God is punishing me for a past sin.

Truth: Oh sister. You know this one isn’t true—why do you believe it?

Let’s debunk this lie a little bit.

Children are a blessing. There is no doubt about it. Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.”

However, God also says that, “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew‬ ‭5:45‬ ‭ESV)‬‬ The rising sun and falling rain are symbols of blessing. God actually pours out His blessings on the just and the unjust. Both saints and sinners. ‬‬‬‬‬‬

If He only gave babies to the ones who were “righteous” enough—pretty much no one would have babies. (Like ever.) His word says, “None is righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:11) And God says that our most righteous deeds to “filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) So let’s stop believing, “If I’m just a little more righteous, then I will conceive.” Because if that’s true, you will just keep heaping heavy burdens on your back. Children are a blessing and a gift to be received, not earned.

God is wise. In a way we can’t fully comprehend in this life. The fact that you can’t conceive is more based in His wisdom and purpose for your life, and not based on your good or bad deeds.

Look around, are the people with babies righteous? Some are, many aren’t. Using “righteousness” to obtain blessing from the Lord is a D-A-N-G-E-R-O-U-S place to be. This was the trap the Pharisees fell into. They thought their “righteous” deeds “earned” them a blessing. And that’s why they were furious when “sinners” were inheriting that blessing before them.

Ladies, I get it. I too have wondered, “What is wrong with me? Why does that teen-mom keep pushing her baby past my house? Why does it seem like this works for everybody else—except me? Did I do something wrong to make God close up my womb?”

While it’s good to ask God to reveal your past or present sins and aim to live a righteous life—you have to remember God’s immense grace for you. Grace is unmerited favor. Un-earned. Don’t get trapped into believing that you can “earn” a baby, or anything else for that matter. None of us can “achieve,” or “produce,” or be “holy” enough to earn God’s blessing. And yet, He is so gracious. It’s because of Him that we are saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and not by anything we could do.

I encourage you to keep crying out to Him and bring your requests before Him, just as Hannah did. But as you do, put your hope in His faithfulness, and not in your righteousness.

“But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.” Psalm 13:5


 

For more in this series, read “4 Lies Barren Believe-Part 1“, “Part 2,” and “Part 4“. Or, read any blog posts in the “Trying To Conceive” category.

A few you might like are:

To the Woman Who Thought She Was Pregnant, When She Wasn’t

5 Important Questions The Barren Woman Should Ask

To The Woman Still Longing To Be A Mom”

To The Woman Who Miscarried, Or Never Conceived

spring

To The Woman Who Miscarried, Or Never Conceived,
I’m thinking of you today. I see you every time I look out my window, I can’t help it. There is a daffodil covered in ice. There are tree buds covered in snow. And I’m thinking of you, dear one.

Last weekend, it was warm and breezy. All the earth was coming to life. It was the celebration of resurrection, and life, it was Spring. At last. We finally started opening the windows, and breathing easier. And letting the sun hit our naked skin, hidden under sweaters and coats all winter.

We started to thaw. And feel warm again. And let laughter in.
And we cheered when we saw the daffodils push through the dirt. And my heart lept when I saw the trees finally budding through my kitchen window. For all the life bursting forth.

And one week later (that is today) it snowed.

The winds changed. The north winds blew, and the cold fronts came back unexpectedly.

And the windows slammed shut. And the young daffodils are covered with ice, and fallen low to the ground. And when I see them, I cry for you.

For the fragile beauty, fighting to survive the frost.

I cry for the life in you, that wants to survive. And the way you bend low, like the daffodil, covered with ice.

I see you in these budding trees, that were just coming alive–and are now covered with snow.

I want to tell you something:
I know you feel like this winter will never end.
That there will only ever be death, and cold.
And any life will always be choked out by unexpected northern winds.

But that’s not true.

Today is the day your Faith, becomes bigger than your feelings.

Spring will come.

However long it might take.

The frost is powerful–but it is not the most powerful thing.

Life is powerful.

Life is more powerful than death.

And Jesus is Life–and He is powerful. And I am praying He comes to life in you today. Because even when Jesus was killed–He rose from the dead.

And “The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, is living in you. And will also give life to your mortal bodies.” Romans 8:11

The death-defying power of the Spirit of God–lives in you.
I know what you might be thinking: Where was that power when I miscarried?

Where was the power when I tried to conceive?

Dear one, I don’t understand it. But it wasn’t your fault.

God is the giver of life. And He will give you life in Him.
I am praying that He raises you back to life today. That though you be like that fallen daffodil in the ice–that day will come and is coming that the sun will warm you again, and raise you up, and bring you to life.

You will stand tall and radiant in the sun.

And though your budding trees are covered with snow–
they will thaw, and live, and in time, flourish again.

And you will not be shaken. For God is with you.
So don’t fear the frost. This winter WILL end.

Spring is coming, Jesus is on the move, can you feel it?
And Summer will come. But as long as this winter lasts–do not lose heart. Direct your heart to the Lord, that you may say with great confidence,

“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
Habakkuk 3:17-18

How Fear Robs Me of the Life God Wants Me To Live

life

They said the lump is probably nothing. But I can’t know yet.

I have to wait. And my mind—it goes there every single day. I don’t mean for it to. It just…does.

What if I’m dying and I don’t know it? What if I don’t have much time left?

I am afraid to die. I am afraid of many things.

And it shifts. Sometimes it’s ISIS. Or mass shootings. And I wonder if some gunman will start unloading while we’re in the grocery store, or at Target. Or the movie theater. Or a restaurant. Or concert hall.

Because that’s what happened in Paris, right?

And is there any safe place?

Some nights I go to bed, and wonder if some foreign enemy will attack our lands over night? And every sunrise feels like a little miracle. That we are safe another day.

When I get in the car, I whisper a prayer over my daughter in her car seat. I strap her in tight. I kiss her face all over.

I ask the angels to watch over us.

And, I try to be so safe, you know? I try to be so vigilant. But I worry we’ll get in some horrible accident.

There are so many fears that haunt me. There are so many fears that shake my inner peace.

I don’t want to die—but look at me. Look at my fears:
I spend my days dying, more than living.

Fear has this way of choking out everything good in my life.

All the joy.

And this is one of those things—I don’t really want to talk about.

But I have to.

Because it’s real. It’s this reality that is living under the surface of my skin. All the time.

Tonight, after I gave my daughter her bath, and dried her hair, and zipped her into her fleece jammies, I started worrying about the “lump” again. The one they said is probably just a lypoma. But they can’t be 100% certain.

And as I began to get lost in the fear—that I could be dying—the Holy Spirit whispered something to my heart, He said,

“Will you choose life or death?”

He was confronting me, ever so gently. “Will you spend your life living? Or dying? Because if you spend the days I’ve given you as a slave to fear and death–then you will spend your days dying and missing all the good I have for you. But if you trust Me, you will live and spend your days alive in Me.”

I remember reading a Scripture about God telling His people to choose life or death. And I left the last few dishes in the sink, and I went to find it.

I searched in the back of my husband’s big study bible—and I found it. It’s in Deuteronomy 30.

Moses is at the end of his life and he is preaching to the people of Israel. He’s telling them to choose life or death. Obedience or rebellion. Blessings or curses.

He says,
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”
Deuteronomy 30:11 &14

It is not too hard for you.

It is not far off.

It is near you.

It is in your mouth and heart.

You can do it.

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping His commandments and his statutes and His rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.” Deuteronomy 30:15-18

He sets before you life and death.
Good and evil.

And if you want to possess the land—and the life—then obey His voice. And live.

But if your heart turns away from Him. If you stop listening for His voice. If you are drawn away to worship other gods. (Even the god of self-preservation. And the god of fear.) And if you serve those gods—

If you serve those gods, you will surely perish.

The god of fear makes you a slave–and it will make you spend your days dying, not living.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.” Deuteronomy 30:19

God says, we get to choose.

Life or death.

Will we follow the way of Life,
Or the way of Death?

Every day Death haunts me—threatens to steal my peace, my joy, my life.

But tonight Life is calling me.

He’s running toward me, and beckoning. He’s shouting loudly, “Live!”

Don’t spend your life fearing you will lose your life. Or you will lose it. Slowly. Every day.

If I keep living in fear, if I keep letting anxiety rule my life, if I keep letting dread dictate my steps, and my thoughts—I won’t be living anymore. I will be dying.

Dear brothers and sisters—I don’t want to constantly think about how I might die.

I want to start thinking about how I will live.

I don’t know how I will die–and I don’t need to know. I need to know how I will live. I need to know how I will every day and every hour throw off the shackles of fear, and burdens of doubt. I need to know how I will inhale and exhale the breath of God and eat His Word like it is my only food. I need to love well, and love hard, stop being so afraid to risk this life–because it’s not my own anyway. I was bought at a price.

And I hope when I come to the end–however near or far that may be–that I show up to heaven’s gates having lived. That I will have spent my life living–and not dying. I hope I show up with my heart riveted with scars, but bursting with joy, with wrinkles in my skin, and fire in my eyes, and my arms open, and my pockets empty. Before Him who is Jesus.

The One who called me. The faithful and true. The beginning and the end. Who first whispered my name, and who I will hear whisper it again–the moment my eyes flutter open to eternity. To see Him, with my own eyes.

“Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Choose life. (Choose Him over your fears.)

Love the Lord your God.

Obey His voice.

Hold fast to Him.

For He is your life.

And length of days.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. But I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.”

Have life.

And have it more abundantly.

So stop thinking about how you will die,

And start thinking about how you will live.

In Him.

For He is your life, 

and length of days. 

Don’t Forget The Miracle

selah

It’s 9:47 p.m. and she’s still not sleeping. Though I put her to bed over an hour ago. It’s bedtime–the never ending saga–of hugs, and kisses, and stories, and songs. And tears–because the door isn’t cracked open enough to let the light in, and cups of water. And reassuring whispers in the dark.

It’s 10:15 p.m. and I thought she was sleeping, but she’s calling for me–yet again. “Mom! Come here, I need to tell you something!”

I go up. “What?”

“I hurt my finger.”

I have no idea how you can hurt your finger while wrapped in soft blankets. But, that’s my girl. “Okay. Good-night,” I say.

Eventually, she does sleep. Eventually, we all do.

And…I forget sometimes that the little blonde-haired girl in the blue snowflake pajamas next door–is a miracle. I forget sometimes of what my life was like, before her.

And how I never expected her to come.

But she did.

She did come, because God had ordained it. And I didn’t know it. I didn’t know she was coming to us.

All I knew was this name, He dropped in my heart, before we ever conceived her, before we ever even wanted to try.

It was,

Selah.”

It’s from the Psalms and means, “pause, and reflect on this.” It’s a musical interlude, when the singers to grow silent, and reflect on what was just sung.

And I thought about Selah often. I didn’t know if Selah was really a girl, or merely a state of mind. I didn’t want to try and “name it, claim it!” I didn’t want to try to dictate to God, what He would do, or what or who He would give us. I thought maybe God just wanted to teach me how to practice, “Selah.” To be still, and listen, and reflect–on Him.

And I wasn’t sure.

And it was shadowy, like something from a dream. Like traveling through fog.

You can’t see it, but then, it’s right there.

And I didn’t see her. I couldn’t see her.

But then,

she was right there.

The miracle.

Sometimes miracles are like that. They seem so far away. And then, suddenly, it’s right there.

We were just watching a movie one night, and I got up to take a pregancy test I had bought that day in the clearance section at Walmart. “Do you want me to pause it?” my husband called up the stairs.  “No!” I shouted.

I didn’t know that in two minutes everything would change for us.

I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t see her coming.

But God did.

He always saw her.

And this is something I love about God–He sees everything. He sees it far before.

And He sees us.

He sees us, even on the day we stop believing in miracles. And He loves us still.

I don’t understand it all. I don’t always understand God. But that is part of His mystery. And part of His majesty.

I don’t really know how miracles work–but I know that when God does a miracle, we should celebrate it. We should remember it. And never forget it.

That’s why when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, they were commanded to bring up twelve stones from the bottom of the river–and take them with them. It was to remember that God had stopped the flow of water for them, so they could pass through. He saved their lives. And God wanted them to keep the twelve stones as a memorial–so that one day, when their children were grown, they would ask their fathers, “What do these twelve stones mean?”

And then, they would remember. Then, they would tell their children–what God did. The miracle God worked on their behalf.

We are prone to forget–the miracle.

So today, remember.

Remember the miracle–that God did–that time you were crying out. That time when you whispered prayers in the dark. And you couldn’t see anything in front of you. That time you thought nothing would ever change–but it did.

Remember the miracle, that God did?

Remember?

Sometimes we have to remember the miracle of the past–in order to have hope for the future.

Remember the time, He victoriously came through?

Remember the miracle?

Because when we remember–then we can celebrate. Then we can trust Him. Then we can worship. Then we can stop walking by fear, and start walking by faith. And joy. And trust.

We are taught to be good at telling people our accomplishments–about showcasing our talents. But what if we started saying, “Now, let me tell you about what God did..” “Let me tell you about what God accomplished…in me.” “Let me tell you about the time God victoriously came through.” These are the stories our kids need to hear. These are the ones they will remember. This is how we show them the twelve stones. And the God–who carried us through the river.

“We will not hide these truths from our children, we will tell these truths to the next generation, about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders.” Psalms 78:4

We have to remember. We have to celebrate–what God did. Even if it was last month. Even if it was last year. Even if it was ten or twenty years ago.

Remember the miracle. And the God who showed Himself through it.

“So the next generation might know them—
even the children not yet born—
and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
not forgetting his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands.” Psalm 78:6-7

***

One day, my daughter will ask me if I believe in miracles.

And I will tell her, Yes. You are one.

Selah

FOX2015-97

Introducing “The Free-Spirit Homemaker Series”

free spirit homemakerIf you’ve ever burned the grilled cheese, and served it anyway (after scraping off the “black” side with a knife)…

If you’ve ever let the clothes “stink” in the washer. And tried to get away with it by tossing extra dryer sheets in to cover up the smell (so that all your clothes end up smelling like perfumed farts)…

If you’ve ever opened up Tupperware from your fridge and almost been knocked over by the smell of “something” from another era, that appears to have changed molecular structure multiple times…

If you’ve ever completely forgotten to make dinner for your family…

If your dinner-bell and smoke detector sound strangely alike…

Or, if you’re grocery shopping trips look like a leisurely walk in the park, because you take time to smell the flowers (or every single one of the Glade plug-ins)…

You might be a free-spirit.

I know this, because I am one.

And free-spirits are strong in many areas. They are instinctly creative, expressive, and relationally intimate with people. They are lovers of beauty, seekers of meaning, and they always follow their hearts.

Often, they are artistic, or at least appreciate art deeply, whether it’s the art of writing, reading, creating, or simply being in the moment. And when they are doing something they are very passionate about, it’s as if time stands still.

(Except, it doesn’t. And that’s why the grilled-cheese burns. Or the laundry never gets switched. Or the grocery shopping trip gets pushed back three days.)

Read my last post to understand why free-spirits are “naturally” terrible homemakers.

I don’t think most free-spirits know they can improve at homemaking. Or if they do, they think it will cost them everything they love and enjoy. I understand this because as I have struggled with homemaking and realize, “I need to get better at this,” it has in time’s past flung me into one of two directions.

All, or nothing.

I’ve either A.) All. Pulled up my boot-straps and gone into “Cleaning Dragon” mode, printing off rigorous “chore charts” from Pinterest, and threatening to bite the head off of anyone who dares leave their socks on the floor. I got dinner on the table in time, but I nearly singed my husband’s eyebrows off with my dragon fire when he walked on my freshly mopped floor with his grassy just-mowed-the-lawn shoes. Typically, my “beast-mode” form of homemaking doesn’t work well for me, or my family.

Or more commonly, B.) Nothing. This is where I happily let my house look like a tornado went through it. I let the laundry pile up all week, and I order pizza for dinner, and I really don’t care what the kitchen looks like, or if my closets could eat you. I just want to do what I love to do (which is often writing) and so what if my daughter eats popsicles for breakfast, and my husband eats cereal for supper? I just want to enjoy life. (Except, no one enjoys it. Because there’s nothing to eat, there’s no clean sippie cups, and no clean clothes to wear.)

The problem with both A and B is the same: I am not walking in love. My desires are at the top of the list (whether it’s perfection, or pursuing my passions). Not my husband’s. Not my daughter’s. I’m not considering their desires as more important than my own.

So, what’s a girl to do? Especially, when she is a free-spirit and has dreams and passions of her own?

Well, I hope to answer that question in the following weeks. I’m starting a new series here at Barren to Beautiful. It’s called, “The Free-Spirit Homemaker: How To Maintain Your Home, Without Losing Your Soul.”

There is going to be practical advice for “how” to manage your home, and also some bigger questions to address the “heart” behind the homemaker.

Because I don’t think it has to be all, or nothing. Homemaking doesn’t have to be a choice between Dragon Wife and Hippie Slob.

I am convinced there is another way.

It can simply be walking by the Spirit. Even in the area of homemaking. Because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

And there is rest. And joy. And love, so much love.

I have some dear friends (Rachel and Polly from Thriving Home, and Jeanne Harrison from Loving My Lot) who will be sharing some practical advice and wisdom when it comes to thinking through a better approach to our houses, and the people in our houses. (And these ladies have helped me, big time. I can’t wait for you to meet them!) Some topics that we’ll be covering are:

• How To Create A Schedule (Or Rhythm) For Your Day or Week
• How To Meal Plan and Make A Grocery List (Not scribbled on a napkin)
• How To Make (Healthy and Easy) Freezer Meals (And Save LOTS of Time)
• How To Manage Your Time For The Glory of God (And Keep Your Goals And Dreams Alive!)
• How To Find Out What Blesses Your Husband Most (It may not be what you think!)

I believe there has to be a way to maintain the homes and nuture the people God has given us, without losing our souls in the process.

God made us for His glory, and when He is on the throne, we can start aligning everything else accordingly. That’s why we won’t just be discussing the “how” of homemaking, but the “heart” behind the homemaker, and where our thoughts, attitudes, and ambitions are in the process. God doesn’t just care about “your house.” He cares about you. ALL of you. Your whole being. Along with each person in your family.

And when we start seeing them, our husbands, our sons, our daughters as precious as they really are–we won’t be able to help but want to love and nurture them well.

There is much more to come. You won’t find any rigid rules here. Just lots of grace, practical wisdom, ideas, and new approaches to making your house “home”, and nurturing the ones who live there. (Including you, because you still need time to let your soul breathe.)

I hope you join along for this series!  You can follow Barren to Beautiful by entering your email address in the top right section of my blog. Or, simply go to my Facebook page and “like” it. This way, you will recieve new posts right in your newsfeed. Also, I will be posting questions on Facebook, that I would love to have you answer so I can hear YOUR thoughts and perspectives.

See you next time, as we’ll be discussing, “What Is the Point Of Homemaking Anyway?”

(What do you think it is? Share in the comment section.)

 

All I See Are Blooms

image

She’s supposed to be sleeping, but instead, I hear her across the hall. She’s laying in her bed, telling her “knock knock” joke to her stuffed horse. And chattering softly to herself, to her stuffed animals. And to any angels who may be listening in.

I’m sitting on the bed, typing, just to let my soul breathe for a second. Just to inhale this moment. Just to breathe in His grace. And all the love He’s lavished right here in this place. Just to pause for a moment and look around at all He has given me.

Our room is messy, with the clothes we decided not to wear tonight still scattered on the bed, the dresser drawers are pulled out unevenly of the furniture that doesn’t match. Our curtains are ones that I picked up at a yard sale in June.

And I feel like a queen. Not because of anything I’ve done, or accomplished, but because of how great a thing I’ve been given. Because what I have is so good.

And I don’t always see it. The treasure that is my life. The treasure that is my husband, that is my daughter. The treasure that is my God.

But tonight, for these couple minutes of quiet, the blinders are off my eyes. I can see.

And what I see, is so good. Many people who are more successful, more wealthy, more “whatever” could look on me, and see failure. But I don’t care at all what others might see.

I care what He sees. And I care that He sees me, seeing Him. All of Him, and only Him as the One who has blessed me beyond all I could ever ask, or hope, or imagine.

And all of the best things, are coming with me to the next life. All of the best things aren’t the ones that thieves can break in and steal, or moths and rust can destroy. Because Jesus said, that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

And my soul is free tonight. For once, even if just for it a little. I can fly. The thing I’ve dreamed of doing all my life.

And if Peter Pan was right about one thing—it was the happy thoughts.

That happy thoughts make you fly.

It’s easy to be weighed down by all the evil, all the horror. I can think even now of the terrible news I read on news feeds tonight. And it’s so easy to let my eyes grow dark with the darkness. To let my heart grow heavy with the sins of the world, and it’s aching groans.

I’ve always had a bent toward sorrow, toward grief. Almost like grief would keep me sober. Grief would keep me ready for anything. It would protect my heart from being naïve. And so, I only listened to sad music, I identified with it. It seemed most real to me. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been more captivated by sorrow, than by joy.

Until now.

Because I feel God wants to open the floodgates of joy. Because joy is more powerful than anyone thinks it is.

Joy is the heartbeat of the other world we were all made for. The world to which we are all waiting, and longing to go. The one where all of our treasures are.

In the movie, “Luther,” there is a monk who says, “All my life, I have lived in a world that has hated evil, more than it’s loved good.”

A world that has hated evil, more than it has loved good.

I know I am guilty as charged. Perhaps many other Christians are as guilty as me. It’s just that the bad things are so…bad. Sometimes I don’t realize that the good things are so…good. Or that the good things are all…from God.

I remember one night several months ago, there was such outrage on Facebook, about a very broken man who was trying to become a woman. And there were photos of him, and there was anger, and perversity, and nasty comments going back and forth. And my heart felt so heavy, over our world, over the confusion, over it all.

But just then, as I was feeling so discouraged, an email from the other side of the world popped up in my inbox that said, “Xavier was born!” He is my nephew, born to my missionary sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Niger, Africa. And when I saw his face, his little tiny newborn face, in the photo attachment—I just cried happy tears because, he was so beautiful. And the news was so good.

He was my happy thought.

And in the week to come, I kept thinking of his little face. I kept feeling I could fly. Just because of him. The joy he was. The evidence of “good.” Of God.

And I began to learn that however large those dark clouds hang, they are not bigger than the light that bursts through these good and perfect gifts from God.
Last spring, I was weeding my flower bed and I felt sure I heard the Lord speak to me. Not in an audible voice, but in my mind. But He said, in an Irish accent, (and I know how crazy this makes me sound) but He said, “Do you hate weeds more than you love flowers?”

And right away, I knew exactly what He meant. “Do you hate weeds, more than you love flowers?”

Do you hate the bad, more than you love the good?

Do the weeds invoke more anger and irritation in you, than the joy of these blooming flowers?

Do you mourn the losses, more than you celebrate the victories?

In this life, there are always going to be weeds. There are always going to be flaws, there are always going to bad things, and people that are not perfect. There are always going to be problems, and trials, and evil. There will always be weeds.

But there will always be flowers, too.

And when I look out on my life, on other’s lives—am I going to see the weeds, or the flowers? And am I going to hate the weeds, more than I love the flowers?

I think God likes flowers. And maybe that’s why He hasn’t “rototilled” us all to pieces by now.

He’s more gracious than I can comprehend. And sometimes, when I read about King David’s life, all I can see is this lying, adulterous, deceitful man, enslaved to sexual addiction, and lust.

All I see are a whole bunch of nasty weeds.

But that isn’t what God sees. God notoriously calls David, “A man after My own heart.” A man who passionately worshipped, and cried out to God from his bed, and who sang with his whole being, and knew his own brokenness, and God’s own goodness and mercy, and trusted in it, all the days of his life. That’s what God sees. The flowers. The beautiful, glorious flowers.

And I want to see how God sees. In my own life, and in other people’s lives. Because I think He sees and appreciates and rejoices in beauty more than anyone thinks He does. And when we join Him in this—we feel His pleasure.

Oh, I want to feel His pleasure!

So I’m going to love the good, more than I hate the evil. I’m going to love the flowers, more than I hate the weeds.

Because flowers are beautiful.

Last night, I fell asleep to my husband playing his guitar and singing in the other room. And there was no sweeter sound in all the world. I just lay in our bed and soak in his voice like the most soothing lullaby I’ve ever heard.

I forget the miracle he is sometimes. I forget the mystery of the way we met. I forget how precious he is. I forget the softness of his voice.

And just to lay and listen, as tears form in my eyes, and love him all the more—just because he’s mine. Just because I wouldn’t trade him for the world. Just because God gave him to me, as a gift. A good and perfect gift. Not because he is perfect, but because He is from God, and that makes him perfect for me.

Right now, Selah is sleeping across the hall. But tonight, when I put her down, I lay with her in her bed and as we lay in the dark, she held my face in her hands and smiled wide at me, looking at me like she was a proud grandma. With her hands still on my cheeks, I said, “Hey Selah, did you know that I always wanted to have a little girl named Selah?” And she just giggled. And after a few minutes I said, “Hey Selah, what do you think is in heaven?” And she said, “Toys.”

And we both laughed with the blankets pulled up to our chins.

She’s two, and the youngest miracle I know. And I don’t know what heaven holds, but when I hear her laugh, when I hear my husband sing, I feel heaven breaking through.

I feel the treasure they are. I feel my heart move into that place where no one can steal my joy away. And I see flowers breaking through the dirt.

And I love flowers because they are beautiful. Even with the weeds, they are beautiful.

And tonight, all I see are blooms.