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.

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{Mommy Journal} Where’s the Chocolate?

DSC_1763It’s been one of those long stay-at-home mom weeks, as my baby has had a drawn-out flu bug leading to restless nights and fussy days. My “tired” this week pales in comparison to most mothers’ tired, but I struggled with it nonetheless.

In many little moments of feeling emotionally and physically spent, I noticed thoughts like this skip across my head.

I need a few minutes to put my feet up and watch a grown-up show. Chocolate would make everything better right now. I really need a nap. I need a washing machine in my apartment. I need my mom. I need a husband who isn’t buried in homework. I need a break. 

But guess what? I didn’t need any of those things. We’re a little over halfway through Whole30 right now (a restrictive 30 day nutritional reset diet), and if nothing else, it has shown me how quickly when I’m feeling sad or at the end of my rope, I turn to food or something else for the comfort I’m craving, without even thinking about it! I didn’t eat any chocolate this week, and I said no to a lot of other desires as I realized that these small trials are meant to push me not to comfort food, a nap, or a break, but to Jesus Christ Himself. On good days and on bad days, Jesus and Jesus alone is what I need.

I long for my first impulse in the difficult moments not to be “Where’s the chocolate?” but a humble cry to my Savior. When life’s hard circumstances, big or small, have me down, I want to instinctively run to sit at His feet, by meditating on memorized Scripture, singing hymns in my head, or poring over an open Bible.

This week, as I’ve recognized my sinful tendency to skip Jesus and seek joy from material gifts, I have experienced the lasting benefits of instead denying my flesh and “seeking the things above, where Christ is” (Col 3:1b).

It takes surprising discipline to do this–to meditate on the gospel while I’m cleaning a sick little one, or praise God for Who He is when I’m getting up for the 10th time at night–but the reward of real peace and contentment is well worth the struggle to think heavenward.

One specific thought that has encouraged me this week came from a chapter I read from Here is Our God along with Revelation 4-5 a few days ago. I’ll leave you with this quote.

“Let’s never forget that this heavenly scene, with God’s throne at the center, is the center of the universe NOW, with this ongoing worship of our Creator God. There is a throne in heaven now, awesome and sovereign. Don’t doubt it. It’s right there right now as if just through a door. Let’s think of this throne when we wake up tomorrow morning… Let’s never think of our sufferings or our joys–or others’ sufferings and joys–without letting live in our imaginations the picture of this sovereign throne and our awesome holy God and this worship of Him ringing right now at the center of the universe.”

(Kathleen Nielson)

Clarification: Chocolate, washing machines, naps…they are all gifts from God that can be used and enjoyed. This post simply seeks to point out my tendency to start (and often end) with those things, rather than running to God with my troubles. 

 

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)

To Make You More Like Christ

DSC_0603It was 11 PM and I was in bed but far from asleep.

I had just finished complaining to Andrew about some apartment management frustration and worries over how the following day would go in terms of coordinating my responsibilities with Caleb’s schedule.

After about five minutes of silence, I blurted out, “I’m really mad and it’s making me mad that I’m mad!” (Two-year-old reasoning, anyone?)

We talked some more and I said, “But why do these things always happen on the days when you’re gone?”

Andrew’s answer: “To make you more like Christ.”

Ouch. I knew he was right, and as I sat there trying to surrender my heart to God’s sovereign provision of irritating circumstances, I replied in a humorous tone, “Congratulations. You’ve successfully shut me up.”

We have a running joke about one time when I was upset about another situation and Andrew gave me wise advice. My response in the moment had been, “I don’t need to be Biblical counseled right now, I just need you to listen!” (Excuse the poor grammar. I know the nerds out there are dying to add an “ly” to the end of “Biblical”.) Now, when these sorts of conversations start, Andrew likes to mimic me in an annoying, squeaky voice, “I don’t need to be biblical counseled!” I don’t know about you, but in our experience, humor is often a great way to diffuse tension.

But I digress.

Andrew’s answer was spot on, and I knew it.

This small frustration was just one of many tools that God uses to refine me and transform me more and more into His image. As Andrew also pointed out, I could either have a bad attitude about it, or I could choose to let it drive me to the cross and make me more like Christ. Either way, I wasn’t getting out of it, so I might as well grow through it!

Are you dealing with something difficult, big or small, today? God wants to use that situation to make you more like His Son. Don’t waste that opportunity. Don’t fight God’s hand.

Captive Thoughts

Lately it seems like I’ve had more opportunity to dwell on the wrong things and to let my thinking get out of line with the truth. For one thing, feeling nauseous constantly makes it really easy to slip into self-pity and ungratefulness. I’ve realized in fresh ways that it takes hard work and conscious effort to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). This is always true, but the issue of selfish thinking is more glaring when I’m faced with something difficult. 

For the past few weeks, I’ve been loving 1 John and 1 Peter for my quiet times. I like being able to grab one verse or passage that I try to take with me throughoutshoes the day. It’s what I go back to when I catch my thoughts drifting in a direction that does not bring glory to God.

I’ve also appreciated solid Christian music to fill my mind with truth. For a year or so now, I’ve listened to far less secular music because I find the uplifting, Scripture-filled quality of worship music to be so much more beneficial. (I haven’t gone cold turkey. I still enjoy Taylor Swift and others, but in moderation.) Earlier this morning I was struggling with a situation I am currently working through, and I was so thankful that the Lord brought Fernando Ortega’s musical rendition of Psalm 19:14 to my mind, which I sang as a prayer while I worked in the kitchen.

Let the words of my mouth
Be pleasing to You, pleasing to You
The meditation of my heart
Be pleasing to you, pleasing to You
Oh Lord, my strength
And my Redeemer

Right thinking does not come naturally to me, but it is so worth the effort to drag myself back to the Lord for the mind-makeover I need at every moment. When I draw near to Him, He is faithful to use His Word to encourage my heart and correct my thinking.

“I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart.” (Ps. 119:11)

{My Pregnancy Journal} Fear of Miscarriage and How It Has Grown Me

Yaffie

I never anticipated having miscarriage on my brain, but as soon as we learned we were expecting, I was very much aware of the possibility that Yaffie would not make it. I have been doing everything in my power to give our baby a fighting chance, but there is an incredible sense of helplessness and lack of control when it comes to sustaining a child that is only a few weeks old.

As I worked through the fear of losing Yaffie, I realized that we will never really be able to control our children’s lives and safety. Once they are physically born, it may seem like we have more control, because we can see them and touch them and be responsible to keep them out of harm’s way. But they are still never really ours, and God has already ordained their days apart from our plans and care. In a way, it is a scary thought–knowing that God could take my child at any point–but really, it is a comforting and freeing truth to understand that what is best for us and our baby is exactly what God has sovereignly planned. That “best” may not be what I desire, but it is nonetheless very good.

At first, I thought it would be wise and mature not to get too attached to Yaffie early on, knowing that we had a good “chance” of miscarriage. But then I realized that each day that God allows me to be a mom is a gift He has bestowed, and it is perfectly good and precious to embrace everything about it and to love our baby with all my heart, provided I am still willing to let him go if God should require that. As long as Yaffie takes his proper place behind my love for and trust in God, I cannot treasure him too much! 

I think the sense of helplessness we may feel in the early weeks of pregnancy is a great way to practice holding our child in an open hand before the Lord right from the start. I want to remember these feelings of dependency on God far beyond the cradle, as He continually teaches me that our children belong to Him and are ours to care for only as long as He allows. This frees us to love them with all our hearts, recognize them as the precious gifts that they are from God, and trust Him with their futures.

My worries quickly gave way to peace as God spoke truths into my heart and brought His Word to bear on my thoughts and emotions.

The fear of miscarriage was not something I had anticipated needing to work through, but it was a tool that God used to grow my faith, teach me to trust, and encourage me to embrace every moment of motherhood.

A Chronicle of Recent Craziness

20140415-002506.jpgI haven’t blogged much in the last month because life has been just a wee bit crazy.

On March 17, Andrew and I accepted a position as apartment managers. This meant more responsibility, but free rent in a quieter, cleaner neighborhood…plus a little monthly cash on the side. I cried and cried and cried at the thought of moving and leaving our cat, then fell fast asleep on the couch.

On March 20, I found out why I’d been unusually emotional and easily exhausted. I took a pregnancy test, purely to assure myself that I was not pregnant. Shocker of shockers, two little lines appeared immediately. I took a second test. Same result. We were parents! We laughed and cried and kissed goodbye as I headed to the airport to visit my grandma. (Talk about a torturous parting!)

On Marcy 23, morning all day sickness struck, and I wondered how mothers have more than one child. After three days of vomiting every evening, I switched prenatal vitamins, which has kept the puking almost entirely at bay, praise the Lord! The nausea decided to stick around.

On April 2, we started moving into our new place, in the middle of Andrew’s school week. My mom flew down last-minute to help move do everything for me. She is amazing.

On April 4, before we’d even had a chance to set up our bed or move the last of the furniture, we were already showing a vacant apartment to prospective tenants, taking phone calls, and answering questions about things we didn’t know…I, while constantly feeling just on the verge of vomiting, and Andrew, while having a growing stack of homework waiting on him.

And since then, it’s just been days of trying to catch up…wrapping up at our old place, transferring accounts over to our new one, updating our address everywhere, getting hours of training for our new job, filing paperwork, answering a 2:00 AM call because someone’s bathtub overflowed and flooded the neighbor…you know, all the fun stuff that comes with getting your apartment for free. I worked 45 hours last week, which would normally feel very doable, but under current conditions, felt more like 80. I am nauseous almost all day most days, and fight insomnia about two out of three nights. (I keep thinking about women who throw up throughout their pregnancy, and I’m reminded of how good I have it.)

We are both ridiculously happy. It is an odd thing to be so physically miserable and spent, and so giddy and joyful all at the same time. With each new wave of nausea, I am trying to remember to thank God that He is still growing our baby and ask Him for the grace to respond humbly to the challenges He is allowing. The stress of the new job and the move in the middle of a tough semester has been difficult, but has ultimately pulled Andrew and me closer together as we learn in new ways how to work together as a team. Most importantly, it has shown me my need for God in every moment. I am utterly dependent on Him and His grace on every step of this new journey. He is so faithful.

So…the craziness of life has kept me from writing, but I hope to blog more about this new adventure. We’ve known about Yaffie (our baby, name explanation forthcoming) for a month exactly, and it is crazy how much we already love him/her. Several people have asked if I will be sharing a pregnancy journal. I do plan to post some regular updates on the joys and jolts of my first pregnancy as it progresses. I have the tiniest little baby bump started, which is the most exciting news I have to share so far. =)

I am only 8.5 weeks, and this baby still belongs to God and always will. But Lord-willing, I will have many happy stories to share over the next seven or eight months and beyond. Either way, I am beyond grateful for every day that God allows me to be a mom.

Let’s talk soon!

Abigail