Hell0, 2017!

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I have a love/hate relationship with midnight, New Year’s Eve. I appreciate the opportunity to turn a new leaf, but I am very nostalgic, so I always cry as we bid farewell to another year. One year, Andrew and I took a getaway over New Year’s with two couples. While the other five were drinking sparkling cider and watching fireworks from the balcony, I was sitting inside with tears streaming down my face. It’s become a big joke…my friend Brittney always texts me to ask how my annual cry was. ;)

This year, I missed the countdown. My hubby was in bed and I was in the dark living room feeding my baby. I felt contented and peaceful as I looked at the clock and realized it was midnight, 2017. I didn’t cry.

I’ve come a long way in the past year. When I reflect on where I was at as of January 1, 2016, I am thrilled to see tangible ways that God changed and grew me. If I had to pick one word to describe my 2016 “journey” it would have to be “trust”. I continued down the path of learning to give my mommy anxiety to God and let Him care for my little ones. I gave our future job/ministry plans to God as we waited for Him to open doors. I let go of stressing about when God would give us another baby. Over and over, God met our needs and gave us answers, sometimes to questions we hadn’t even thought to ask. He showed me repeatedly that trusting Him is always best, and He is always faithful. I am so grateful for the work He did in me, through pain and through joy, and I look forward to 2017 with great anticipation for what He will accomplish!

In some ways, with the excitement of a new baby and Andrew’s completion of seminary, the New Year caught me off guard. So I’m behind on goals and plans. But here are a few scattered ones I’ve been mulling over for awhile. These are mostly practical/tangible. There are also many other ways I am asking God to grow me in godliness and Christlikeness this year.

I am purposing NOT to push through the days and “just try to make it” to crib time or bed time or Daddy getting home. All the frustrations and accidents and challenges that happen on our way to those times of respite are what these little years are made of. How can I wish them away?? I want to be very present and to enjoy my children even when it is hard to see past the spilled juice and the meltdowns and the blowouts. These sweet little souls will only be little for so long and I will choose to embrace this season, each part of it!

I hope to grow in my prayer life, to sieze many small opportunities to commune with God throughout my day. I have grown in being faithful to actually pray for people when I say I will, and I desire to be even more consistent in this and remember to check in with those I am lifting up.

I will seek to grow in having a “helper mindset” toward Andrew. To be flexible and adaptable, eager to free him up for ministry to others. I was dependedent on him so much last year when I was in the throes of pregnancy sickness, and I am excited to use my good health and energy this year to better serve and help him fulfill his callings. I want to be a gracious and humble wife, with low expectations.

I desire to train our children with their salvation and love for the gospel in mind. To correct for the purpose of showing them their need for Christ and His perfect fulfillment of that need, rather than for the purpose of making my life easier, making me look good, etc. I want to train them unselfishly with true, biblical love, and to be consistent and not lazy in my correction.

I will take consistent preventative measures to build up our immune systems as best we can, while knowing that God alone oversees our health. I did some research over the past few months and with Andrew’s permission, picked a few realistic things to create our new daily supplements “regimen”. They are a good probiotic (I’ll be rotating which one we take every few weeks), vitamin C, and cod liver/fish oil. I also just bought elderberries to make elderberry syrup, and we have almost entirely cut refined sugar from Caleb’s diet. I am still taking my prenatal vitamins, magnesium, and a large dose of Vitamin D daily, per my midwife. I hope these efforts help us achieve a healthier year, but I know that God is in charge of whether or not we get sick.

I hope to read six books. I hope I read more, but I figured I’d start with a super realistic goal and go from there. ;)

These are a few of my random goals for 2017, what’s left of it now that we’re in February. :) What are you working toward?

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This World is Not My Home…And That Changes Everything

IMG_7707As I wrote recently in my 2015 recap, I did a lot of wrestling over the past year. Much of that wrestling continues as we are one month into 2016. It’s not necessarily a negative thing; wrestling is a necessary part of the Christian life. There was a time when I didn’t really wrestle the way I do now, and I know that I had nowhere near the relationship with Christ or the desire to make my life count for Him that I do now. With growth and sanctification has come more intense internal spiritual battle.

In reading Letters to Pastors’ Wives (which is SO good so far, by the way), I stumbled upon a quote that absolutely hit the nail on the head in articulating one of my biggest struggles. This quote is written of two godly Christian wives from years ago…

“They knew this world was not their home, and this knowledge gave them stability to enjoy good times without needing them and to endure hardship without despair.”

When I read that, my world was rocked. That is precisely where I so want my heart to land. I’m a pendulum, constantly swinging between being so caught up in not holding onto my gifts that then I don’t even enjoy them, to being crippled by fear that I might lose them because I’m idolizing them. But that simple sentence encapsulates the balance that I long to strike: applying the truth that this world is not my home by enjoying the good times, with a precious, healthy family and all my material needs met, while still having a heart that is prepared to see those blessings removed without sinking into despair.

This concept boiled down into one simple sentence hit me in such a profound way that I felt compelled to share it in case anyone out there wrestles with the same issue.

Believing by faith that this world is a fleeting journey taking me toward my eternal home with Christ has massive practical implications for how I live my life. I’m constantly begging the Lord to give me the discipline and vision to set my “mind on the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:2).

Because doing so changes everything.

2015: The Year of Wrestling

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I generally feel sad on New Year’s Eve. It’s a day when I can’t avoid how quickly time is passing by. Every time December 31 rolls around, I can remember the previous one like it was yesterday, and it weirds me out. It’s a day when my nostalgic, sentimental side threatens to overwhelm me with melancholy.

But I also embrace the opportunity to reflect on what God has done in the past year, and to start afresh with renewed energy and passion. This year, I’m especially grateful for the past 365 days.

While last year was certainly one of sweet, unmatched blessings with my precious little family, I am even more grateful for everything God did in my heart.

If I had to pick one word to describe my spiritual journey in 2015, it would be “wrestling”. I wrestled with intense fear like I had never known. I wrestled with assurance of salvation, and it was a hard, draining, fight. I wrestled with finding the balance of enjoying God’s good gifts while recognizing that He could remove them at anytime and that I am not entitled to anything.

I haven’t overcome all these struggles by any means, but I have seen God’s faithfulness to comfort, to speak truth, to hold onto me. He restored my confidence and trust that He has saved me, after some very agonizing months, and I am closer to Him and more thankful for His work on the cross than ever before. He used His Word and many wise believers in my life to teach me how to combat fear and anxiety Biblically, so that although I still struggle with it, I am equipped to conquer it in His strength. He is still teaching me how to enjoy His material blessings without finding my joy and stability in them.

It’s not something you can measure, but it feels like I grew more in my love for God and my understanding of the Christian walk in 2015 than I did in my whole life up to that point. It makes me excited for how He will continue to change and shape me in the years to come. What an awesome, powerful God we serve!

Yes, I wrestled in 2015. It was hard work and at times I was overcome by how far I had to go. But God was right there with me, every step of the way. So really, when I look at 2015, I see God. I see Him overshadowing all my failures and struggles and sin. And I trust Him to stay at my side for whatever 2016 will bring.

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
(Psalm 37:1-6)

Loving Sacrificially as Jesus Loved Us

loveOn Monday night I shared this simple little devotional at our monthly Bible study Ladies Night. Posting it was easier than writing something new…so here ya go. =) 

Tonight I want to share a few thoughts about one aspect of Biblical love. In John 13:34 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Since Jesus commands us to love each other just as He loves us, I started thinking about what that looks like. One of the most obvious aspects of His love for us is that it is a sacrificial love.

“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Jesus loved us so much that He sacrificed more than we could ever imagine for us. He left His home in Heaven, where everything was perfect. There was no sin, no sadness, no broken relationships, no suffering, no misery, no sickness, no hunger and thirst, and no pain. He came to earth and was born into a modest family in a stable. He went from the glory of Heaven, where everyone recognized Him as the King that He is, to growing up surrounded by sinners, most of whom did not know He was God, or refused to believe. He experienced 40 days of hunger and thirst, He fought temptation, and He spent His time ministering to unlovely, sick, disgraced, and poor people. He invested years of love into a man who betrayed Him for money. And finally, He suffered unbelievable physical pain and the emotional torment of separation from His Father, ultimately giving up His very life, all so that we could be reconciled to God and have our sins forgiven. He sacrificed in all these ways so that we could be saved.

“He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” (Rom. 4:25)

In Jesus, we have an example of the kind of love we are called to show to one another.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 Jn 3:16-18)

The world tries to tell us that love is about romance and feelings. Even worse, our culture emphasizes the importance of loving ourselves and seeking our own happiness. Relationships according to the world are about what makes us feel good.

But the kind of love that Jesus calls us to is a sacrificial love that puts others’ needs and interests above our own.

Think about one of the relationships in your life. Perhaps someone hard to love, or someone you interact with regularly like your husband, parent, sibling, roommate, or friend. Take a moment to evaluate your love toward that person. Do you show more or less love to them depending on what they can do for you or how they make you feel? Does your behavior toward them change depending on theirs? Are you characterized by willingly and joyfully making sacrifices for them with no expectation of thanks or acknowledgement in return? Are you motivated to love because of what you will receive back?

I was asking myself these questions about my marriage it hit me that often the “sacrifices” I make for Andrew are done with unspoken stipulations. For example, I will be joyful in my sacrifice provided he acknowledges what I have done. If I do not receive thanks in return, I may pout and wonder why I bothered going out of my way for him. Because my husband is a thankful guy, I do not often have a chance to practice sacrificing for him without acknowledgement, but I think often I just subconsciously expect and feel like I deserve his praise.

1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love “it does not seek its own”.

If I am sacrificing in order to enjoy the praise or thanks of another, or to get some favor in return, or because it makes me look good of feel good about myself, it is not truly sacrificing at all. It is doing something with my best in mind, not that of the other person. That is not the love with which Jesus loves us. 

John Piper writes, “The highest act of love is the giving of the best gift, and, if necessary, at the greatest cost, to the least deserving. That’s what God did. At the loss of His Son’s life to the totally undeserving, God gave the best gift – the display of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” 

It’s so easy to go through life with an entitlement mindset. It does not come naturally to us to love others sacrificially without thought for our own well being. But this sacrificial love is what we see modeled in our Savior, and it is the kind of love we are to practice.

Ironically, when we unselfishly sacrifice for others with Jesus’ love and in His strength, we are rewarded with the pleasure that comes from obeying and serving God. The satisfaction we might find in receiving praise or acknowledgement from people is fleeting. But there is lasting joy in pleasing the Lord!

This week, meditate on the sacrificial love that Jesus has shown to you. Thank Him for loving you with no consideration of what you could give back to Him, and ask Him to enable you to show that kind of love to the people in your life.

Image taken from fortalezadoguincho.com. 

{Reading Report} Glimpses of Grace

glimpses-of-grace_1As I ate up the reasonably sized chapters in this book by Gloria Furman, I was happy to find a balanced view of salvation and its affects on our thoughts, motives, and behavior as Christian women. Glimpses of Grace offers theologically sound but practically helpful counsel for cherishing Jesus, Who He is, and His beautiful gospel in the midst of the mundane moments that a woman’s life is made up of.

The balance of this book is clear throughout, including in the following quote from Chapter 3:

I believe it is helpful and necessary to retreat to quiet places to pray and read God’s Word. But silence is not necessary for you to have a vibrant relationship with God. your spiritaul life is not restricted to early mornings before the noisemakers in your life wake up. If you feel that God meets with you only when the house is empty or quiet, you’ll view every noise and every noisemaker as an annoying distraction to your communion with God.

Here we see the well-rounded philosophy that it is helpful and even necessary to retreat to quiet places for quality time with God. Yet if we legalistically believe that we can only commune with Him in that setting, we are opening ourselves up for a lot of unnecessary frustration and wrong reactions to the interruptions He has ordained.

One of my favorite things about this read was Mrs. Furman’s emphasis on the Person of Jesus Christ as our object of contentment. I’ve realized in recent months how easy it is to think I’m content because I’m choosing to enjoy my housework, my job, and the other mundane pieces of life. That’s great, but I really need to take it a step further. Mrs. Furman explains,

Surely these things–a cheerful attitude and sense of hopefulness–are wonderful by-products of rejoicing in God while in the midst of our homes. But that’s just what they are–by-products. The source of our faith, hope, love, joy, and gospel-grounded optimism is God Himself and not our stuff or our circumstances.

I also love the connection drawn between dwelling on Jesus and becoming like Him.

We study Christ because we’ve been saved for the purpose of being transformed into His image, and in our beholding, the work of transformation occurs.

In terms of practicality, Chapter 7 “All Grace and All Sufficieny for Every Dinner Guest” was my favorite. Serving through hospitality must, like everything in our lives, must be done out of a deep-rooted love for Jesus. I’m sure every woman can relate to the fear of man that is shown in letting earning the satisfaction and admiration of our dinner guests become an idol as we prepare to open our homes.

When we serve with the strength God supplies instead of from our own energies or motivation, we can serve with cheerfulness to the praise of His glory. We don’t have to be embittered martyrs on the altar of hospitality.

Quite possibly my favorite quote from the book is also in Chapter 7:

When grief over our sin and thankfulness for the gift of grace meet together at the cross, a powerful work of transformation occurs in our hearts.

I hope these few quotes whet your appetite enough to compel you to pick up Glimpses of Grace. As a young wife looking ahead to, Lord-willing, many years of serving primarily from my home, the truth and encouragement Mrs. Furman had to share rang true in my heart when held up against Scripture. Her sense of humor and realism kept the book light and enjoyable, and her illustrations and real-life examples skillfully brought heady theology down to a practical level, while not trivializing the magnitude of the Cross. I believe this is a book I will return to in years to come as I fight carnal thinking in the mundane moments of life, and I highly recommend it to any woman seeking to love Jesus through her day-in, day-out routine.

{Poetry} The Savior of the World is Here

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The Savior of the World is Here

Jesus Christ, the newborn child
A sinless baby—undefiled.
Holy God in flesh displayed
And in a manger, humbly laid.

Sent to darkness, He the light
Yet in a stable cold tonight.
Baby Jesus, King of Kings
The way to God, this infant brings.

Tiny hands, so soft and sweet,
Youthful brow and tender feet.
Soon to bear the nail and thorn,
The mocking crowd; the brutal scorn.

He soon will face unrivaled pain—
A rugged cross, His blood will stain.
And men, once full of awe and praise
Will suddenly with hatred blaze.

Yet for tonight, this baby boy,
A gift from heaven, brings great joy,
A message loud and long and clear:
The Savior of the world is here!

Abigail Joy ~ December 2007

Observations from Mary’s Song

Photo from the movie The Nativity.

And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.”

Luke 1:46-49

I noticed several beautiful things about Mary and this part of her response. (Full passage is Luke 1:46-55.)

  1. She has a high view of God and His character. She calls Him mighty and and holy.
  2. She does not complain about the responsibility God has assigned to her, nor about the inconveniences and trials that being a pregnant virgin has brought, but actually praises Him for choosing her to bear His Son.
  3. She looks past the present and can see the long-term blessings that God will bring to her down the road through this Child.
  4. She knows she is nothing compared to God, but she does not focus on her inadequacies. Instead, she dwells on Who God is, the great things He has done, and the amazing ways He is choosing to use her in spite of her humble background and sinful human nature.

There’s much more, but that’s what jumped out at me. I can learn a lot from Mary’s example. She is full of humility and meekness, yet does not wither away in self-pity or “low self-esteem”. She recognizes God’s mighty hand in her life and trusts that what He is doing is just right for her. It seems like the ideal balance of humility and confidence in God; I feel like I usually bounce back and forth between those extremes. I’m sure Mary had her moments of pride and doubt…but this song of praise inspires me. How can I be applying these principles to the everyday moments God has for me?

The Gettys loosely put the Magnificat to music and I’ve almost got it memorized from listening to it so much. I love to have these lyrics floating around in my head throughout the day. Here’s the YouTube.