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Friday, September 11, 2015

God Is Not On My Side

"Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.  Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"  "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come."   ~Joshua 5:13

For those of you that know me, you are probably thinking that I have lost my mind or my faith when I assert that God isn't on my side.  Hang with me and let me explain. 

A week ago, I had the opportunity to go to church with my parents at my old stompin' grounds.  Wow, the memories that place brings back.  Anyway, what a blessing to hear the message that I did because there aren't very many messages that I can say that I really came away with something that has left me meditating on it day after day.  But here is the pastor's statement that has "messed" me up: 

         "God isn't on my side, I'm on His."

Seems very simple, right?  I even asked George to think on that and He felt like he was completely missing it because it doesn't seem complicated.  Maybe it hit me right in my gut because I was struggling with obedience in the same area that I can never seem to get it right in.  An area in which I sometimes fight tooth & nail to maintain my independence in.  That area will remain nameless, but everyone has an area.

The pastor's message was on Joshua 4 and how Joshua was giving a charge to the Israelites that before they take the Promised Land, they needed to decide who they were going to serve: God or the idols they had created.  God then told the Israelites the battle plan for Jericho.  Joshua gets to Jericho and comes across a "man" (from my understanding, it's actually Jesus...but I could be mistaken) and Joshua wants to know whose side this man is on.  Is he on the Israelites side or the nations they were about to conquer?  His response: NEITHER.  Wouldn't you expect God's response to be the Israelites side.  Of course.  They were His chosen people.  God didn't take a side though, even though He was very much about to deliver the Israelites' enemies into their hands.

Don't we struggle with the same thing?  We want God to pick a side.  This was the punch in the gut conviction that you just know comes straight from the Holy Spirit:  God didn't sign up to be on my side, I signed up to be on His. And it goes beyond just signing up to be on His team, I surrendered. You know what that means?  When I invited Jesus into my life, I laid down my rights to call the shots or make the rules.  When you sign up for a sports team, you lay down your individual rights and submit to the coach's vision for the TEAM. 

So when I get in a fight with my spouse and I want God to pick sides or convict my husband of something I think he's doing wrong, God isn't on either of our sides.  I'm on His side and the Bible tells me that I am to submit (not getting into that whole topic here) or respect my husband no matter how he is acting towards me.  Do you catch what I am saying? 

In light of it being September 11th, whose side do you think God is on?  Terrorists or the USA?  Neither.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  ~John 3:16 (emphasis mine).

God is in it all for His glory.  And He has a right to be because He created it all (Genesis 1:1).

Bottom line: It doesn't revolve around me.   We live in such a me-centered world that we think that God is fighting for us.  No, we are fighting for Him.  We are in the fight for His glory.  That fight may come through respecting my husband when he hasn't earned it, being patient with my kids when all they've done is make demands of me, going across the ocean to serve people who supposedly are my enemy, sharing the gospel with my neighbor, forgiving someone who doesn't even care whether or not their actions were hurtful.

 Take heart,though, if you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you are already on the winning side.  We may not have the details of His battle plan, but the Bible guarantees us that He wins in the end.  And that is a victory that I definitely do not want to miss out on.  If you want specifics, read the entire book of Revelation.  If you are unsure if you are on God's side, I would love to share with you how you can be certain. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Benjamin's Birth Story

"I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord.  For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord."            ~1 Samuel 1:27-28

I have a two-fold purpose in breaking my blog-writing silence after many, many months.  First & most importantly, I want to proclaim the goodness of God's faithfulness.  Second, to simply document the sweetness of our birth story (for my own aging memory).  

Most of you already know that it has been an 18 month process of seeing the fulfillment of God's redemption of our pain & grief.  We found out in July 2013 that we were expecting a child, but lost that child to miscarriage in September 2013.  Then, in May 2014, we found out that we again were expecting.  After an uneventful, but physically taxing pregnancy, we welcomed our sweet Benjamin into the world on January 13, 2015.  

I was 8 days past my due date and very eager to meet my first son.  I had my membranes stripped for 2 weeks prior, but Benjamin was showing no sign of coming despite being dilated to 4 cm.  I went in for a non-stress test on Monday afternoon.  Everything looked great!  Dr. Troy asked if I wanted to be checked and stripped again, joking that she didn't think it would matter anyways.  I was already scheduled to be induced on Thursday, but we were really hoping to go into labor naturally because I was attempting another VBAC.  I figured it couldn't hurt for her to check and try to get labor going.  Twelve hours later, I awoke at 3:00 am with very strong contractions.  I knew I was already dilated to 4 cm so I began to monitor them, but figured I would have a little while to labor at home.  I was wrong.  They were strong, painful and coming every 4-5 minutes.  My original plan was to get a shower and put on some make-up, but I figured it would be better use of my time to make sure my kids were taken care of.  So I set about making Hannah and Kate's lunches for school.

After an hour of "have to stop what I'm doing & take your breath away" contractions, I woke George up and told him that we needed to go to the hospital.  He was a little surprised as I had tried to stay inconspicuous and let him sleep, especially if it was false labor.  The original plan was to take the girls over to Matt & Sarah's house, but I didn't want to wake them &, more importantly, I didn't want to miss my epidural.  

We got to the hospital about 5:00 a.m. The OB triage nurses noted that I was a scheduled C-section on Thursday and tried to convince me that they didn't do VBACs at their hospital.  I got the 5th degree over what doctor told me a VBAC was permissible.  I firmly told them every OB at my practice consented to my doing a VBAC.  Did they really think arguing with a woman in labor was going to go over well?  Anyway, I got checked in and was 5 cm.  Apparently labor & delivery was very busy & I was getting the last bed.  Woohoo!  The only thing going through my mind though was that must mean a long line for an epidural.  

I got transferred to L&D shortly after.  I labored for probably another hour and a half while they did all of the IV hook-ups, blood testing, and other set-up.  Luckily, the nurse anesthetist walked in as soon as I was cleared to get an epidural.  I was a little nervous as my last epidural was difficult to get in, but this lady was awesome and got it on the first time.  She even did it as she carried on a conversation with George about fishing.  My epidural kicked in quickly and I was finally comfortable and could enjoy visitors (our parents & my sister).  

Dr. Granger came in and gave us the "Are you sure you want to VBAC?" speech.  I will admit that it made a me a little nervous, but he was just doing his job.  He actually apologized to me after Benjamin was born & said that he was very comfortable doing VBACs, but wanted to make sure that I knew all the risks (which is only less than 1% of uterine rupture).  He broke my water and we found out that there was meconium.  It wasn't a big deal, but it did mean that a neonatologist would be present at the birth to make sure the baby did not aspirate on it.  He also started me on pitocin to increase the frequency of my contractions & placed an IUCP to monitor the strength of my uterus and an internal monitor on Benjamin.  I labored pain-free until about 11:00 when I was fully dilated and could tell it was time to push.  I pushed (again...pain-free) for about 15 minutes and out came my big baby boy with a full head of dark hair.

They took him immediately over to clean him up and make sure he was breathing okay, but he was PERFECT.  He weighed 8 lbs. 12 oz. and measured 20 in.  We got to snuggle & nurse shortly after.  Our hospital stay was fairly uneventful after that.  Because he was considered a bigger baby, they monitored his blood sugar, but all of those tests came back clear as well.  We stayed in the hospital until Wednesday evening and then decided to come home due to a lack (meaning none on my part) of sleep.    

Thank you for allowing me to share our story.  Although, Reagan's birth went just about the same, I am still in utter amazement at how perfect it all went again.  God answered prayers from going into labor naturally to having another successful VBAC to being able to get an epidural to him being healthy!  Thank you so much to everyone who prayed at any point during my pregnancy.  My heart is still full & overwhelmed with how God has shown His compassion towards us over the last 18 months.  And my heart is overflowing with love towards my son.   

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Filled with Joy

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy."
                                               ~Psalm 126:3

It has been a couple of months since I have posted, but what joyful news we have to share.  God created new life within my womb 12 weeks ago now.  I was obviously cautious with completely blaring the news to the public.  There are quite a few of you that already know and we have had 3 healthy sneak peeks at our little one now.  As Kate said to me today, "Mommy, it's hard keeping a secret."

Many of you grieved with us in the valley of death with our last baby, but in sharing our news we want to give you the opportunity to celebrate & praise the Lord with us in the new life He has created.  I am certainly glad to be out of that trial, but will forever be changed by the changes that God has done in my heart & know that His love & compassion was behind it all.

God has not only given us the blessing of new life, but I get to walk through pregnancy with my little sister.  We are due two weeks apart.  We have both had pretty bad all day nausea so we've spent a lot of time entertaining our other kids and being miserable together.  It helps to share the misery with someone!  This time around, my nausea has been worse with dry heaving & some throwing up here & there.  Please don't take that as a complaint, but I'm definitely looking forward to the blissful 2nd trimester.  I usually start to perk up around 16 weeks so only about another month.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, the OB put me on progesterone & aspirin.  I'm not sure if that actually helped me, but it was done as a precaution due to my history of miscarriage.  My favorite OB has been so gracious as to allow me two extra ultrasounds (6 & 8 weeks) to make sure baby is alive.  That definitely has made my mental & emotional state of health much more peaceful.  Every bloodwork test & ultrasound we have had so far has returned nothing but positive results!

And I absolutely cannot leave this important part out...my servant-hearted husband.  Because I have been sicker than I usually am, he has taken on some of the household chores (mowing the lawn, which I actually enjoy doing) in addition to his normal chores.  He has graciously overlooked the pile of dirty dishes & piles of laundry.  He has cooked most of our meals.  He actually recently changed jobs within Verizon and that has allowed him to be home almost every afternoon.  Little did we know how much we would need him around.  I have told him this several times, but I am incredibly thankful for how he works hard in the hot sun all day long and then has come home to take extra care of our home & family.  I know that he is definitely looking forward to me feeling better soon.

Once again, for those of you that have prayed us through the last 11 months...THANK YOU!!!  Our prayer is that our joy may now be yours, too!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Inheritance

I've been thinking for about the last month, how or even if I would mention why April 3rd has made such an impact on my life.  To most of you & before nine months ago, April 3rd is just another day.  However, April 3rd is a date that has been tucked away in my brain the moment that I was given my due date.  I can tell you the exact due dates of all of my kids.  In fact, I have to think twice about Reagan's birthday because I always confuse it with her due date.

Needless to say, I need no reminding on this one.  Even if I wanted to forget, the two mail advertisements for birth announcements that came today, would be a blazing reminder that I should have happy news to share this week and not...NOTHING.

It crosses my mind a hundred times a day and probably has even more as I have gotten closer to my due date.  The first time I miscarried before Hannah and Kate, I got pregnant within a couple of months afterwards.  I had a very high risk multiples pregnancy to distract me on my first baby's due date and they were actually only born about 6 weeks later, although they were supposed to be 3 months apart.  It was extremely hard to listen to the baby chime at Brandon Hospital last night.

I really thought & hoped that I would have been pregnant by now.  It's been six months since we lost our baby and while we're never the couple that gets pregnant easily (and, no, I don't need tips on increasing fertility...we know what we're doing), I was supposed to be more fertile after miscarrying.  So you know what I've had to do?  Surrender.

Oh, it's incredibly hard, especially when almost everyone around you gets pregnant just by looking at their spouse (all said in love...I wish that was us).  God has placed some scripture on my heart though that I repeat out loud to myself quite often and it's one of my favorite verses for any situation:

"I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him.'"  ~Lamentations 3:24

If there's anything I've learned about pregnancy & babies, it's that He is in complete control and there is nothing above & beyond the birds & the bees that I can do to make it happen.  He creates when He wants to and He creates how many He wants to. (John 1:3)

Yes, my heart is definitely still hurting & grieving.  I can say with certainty though that God has been preparing me for this day over the last several weeks.  His Word has brought me tremendous comfort as I have to contend with Him over the whys.

My intention of this post is not to complain, but simply to remember the baby that I should be holding in my arms right now and to share with you one treasure that I feel the Lord has given to me in the last couple of weeks.

"Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."      ~Romans 8:17

The thing that came to mind when I read this was that by definition an heir has an inheritance.  So I am called to not only suffer with Christ, but also receive my inheritance with Him.  My suffering has produced an inheritance that I will not receive until I get to Heaven.  But that inheritance is a precious child(ren).  I'm going to have two children waiting for me when I get to Heaven.  That makes it worthwhile.  That gives my suffering a purpose.    

Tomorrow, I'll share a song that has also really encouraged me and I hope will be a blessing to some of you all as well.  Thank you to all of my family & friends who have shown me grace, continued to pray for us, and for just taking the time to listen.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dispelling a Common Saying

"God will never give you more than you can handle."

OR how about this one...

"God only chooses special people to handle ___________ (fill in your trial) because He knows they are strong enough to endure it."

Those sound like great sayings that come out of the wisdom of Solomon's book of Proverbs, right?  Well, when you find them, let me know.  I'm no theologian, but that must be in Proverbs 32.

I fully understand that sometimes people say things like that because they are very well-intentioned and they want to provide some words of comfort, but they just don't know what to say.  I'm know that I have even both thought and said those things multiple times in the course of my lifetime.  As I have come to experience more trials and suffering in my life, I have also come to find that many of those well-intentioned sayings are simply hogwash (and that's actually the nice word for what I'd like to call them).

It was only in the last couple of months that an older, wiser sister-in-Christ pointed out the falsehood of the above particular sayings out to me.  The truth of it is that the only thing God says He won't give us beyond what we can bear is temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).  You want to know why I think God gives us more than we can handle?  It's simple.  So we rely on His strength and not our own.  Jesus even cried out in Matthew 26:39 for God to take away the cross because He knew it would be too much to handle.  But God didn't take it away.  It was THE necessary part of His story of redemption.  

"For my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."  ~2 Cor. 12:9

If I was strong enough to handle it on my own, the fullness of Christ's strength would never be shown.

I'll just tell you from my own experience.  Losing a baby after a year of trying to get pregnant, having premature multiples, raising multiples, losing another baby, and experiencing normal marital issues are amongst the biggest things that God has allowed in my life that I absolutely can't handle.  The above sayings say that I should feel "special" for being chosen for these things.  Like I have some superhuman strength that many others around me simply do not have.  Guess what?  I'm tired of being on these "special lists."  People often ask me how I can handle having twins.  My answer, "I do what has to be done because they are my children and I love them."  It's a choice to accept the responsibility that God has given me.  I could just as easily choose to not accept it as many people do.

If we follow the above logic, that means that God made a mistake when He allowed certain people to become parents who then go on to drive their van into an ocean because what God had given them must have been too much to handle.  We don't have to look far to find people miserably fail to handle their trials or just normal circumstances of life.  I can promise you that I am not any more special or better equipped to handle certain situations in life than the next person.

The above sayings take away the personal responsibility we have to make the choice to obey God or not.  We don't get to blame God when things get too hard and we make a decision to bail.  I make several small choices a day to obey God.  Obedience starts in the small choices so that we are able to stay obedient in the big choices.

What does God expect of us though when we find ourselves in a trial that He's allowed in our lives that really is more than we can bear?  I think we can find the answer in Scripture:

"God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in time of trouble."  ~Psalm 46:1

"I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."  ~Lamentations 3:24

"Be still, and know that I am God; and I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."  ~Psalm 46:10

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  ~Matthew 11:28

He wants us to come to Him.  He wants us to make daily choices to trust Him and find our sufficiency and strength in Him.  The next time you find yourself needing to provide words of comfort and encouragement to someone who is hurting around you, think carefully about the words you offer.  We can't always say what God is and isn't going to do...what God will and won't allow...or why God allows certain things in our lives.  God has a purpose and it is far beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8)

**As previously noted, I am no theologian.  Please feel free to correct me with scriptural truth if I am in error.  :)