{Marriage Journal} A Baby Is Not An Escape

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Here are a few thoughts I drafted one month before Caleb was born, but never posted. 15 months later, I’m convinced more than ever that a solid marriage is the best foundation from which to begin adding children to the mix! =) 

Andrew and I are bursting with excitement to meet our first child sometime in the next several weeks. It’s truly a day we’ve talked and dreamed about for years, and it’s finally here.

Goodbye, Just Us

Saying hello to this beautiful new season of life called parenting has meant bidding farewell to an equally amazing time as just the two of us, and that makes me sad. Andrew is my very favorite person and best friend, and no matter how much one-on-one time we are blessed with, I could always enjoy even more. I’m never tired of his company, and when he is at school, I look forward to his return all day long. Sometimes we can’t even wait through his 20 minute commute and one of us calls the other when he’s out of class so we can start talking while he drives. =)

This is not to say that we do not sin against each other, behave selfishly, hurt one another’s feelings, have conflict, and hit bumps in the road, because we do. But thanks entirely to the grace of God, our relationship is characterized by unity and camaraderie. He has enabled us to establish the habit of keeping short accounts, so that matters of conflict are addressed quickly and willing forgiveness is granted regularly. This makes for an imperfect but oh, so sweet friendship. Praise God!

Hello, Parenthood

The natural progression of life is to start having children sometime after your wedding, and that’s a very good thing. But I think it would be easy to seek this “next step” of parenting as a means of escape from the monotony of a marriage that has become at best boring, or even downright unhappy.

Escape is never the right reason to begin having children. Adding babies to an unhealthy marriage is a sure way to make that marriage even worse. I cannot imagine navigating just the challenges of pregnancy with a husband I’m not close to, let alone trying to raise a little person(s) together. That sounds like the recipe for disaster.

If you happen to be someone currently married and pre-babies, I would encourage you not to crave that “next step” as a way to restore excitement or add a new distraction to your life. It may be wise to evaluate your relationship with your husband and take purposeful steps to help it flourish. (This is always a good idea, regardless of your season of life.) Pinpoint where you are sinning or slacking off in your marriage and ask the Lord to change you from the inside out and grow you into the wife He has called you to be. Communicate with your husband and work together to strengthen your friendship. Of course, all our people problems can be traced back to where our hearts are at with God, so this area of our lives must be addressed first.

Having children should be a joyful step that married couples decide to take as one happy unit. I don’t know this first hand yet, but I have observed that parenting is a team effort and should draw dad and mom closer to one another as they learn to lean on God through brand new challenges and responsibilities that children bring.

You’re Already a Family

Instead of thinking of “starting a family” as the morning you get a positive pregnancy test, think of your wedding day as that moment. You are a family, just the two of you. Soak up this precious season of life as “newlyweds” (even if it’s been years) and build into your friendship with your husband. After all, when the kids are grown and gone, you’ll be right back where you are now. If your littles were your escape from “just the two of you”, that doesn’t sound like a happy way to enter the “empty nesters” phase.

I know there are countless stories of unhappy couples having children, and God using parenting as a tool to refine the marriage and bring the husband and wife closer together. All is certainly not lost when babies are added to a rocky marriage. Praise the Lord! But it is ideal to work toward that healthy relationship before the kiddos come along, so consider how you might do that now. Never view a baby as an escape; instead ask the Lord to create a marriage you don’t want to escape from.

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.

Does Your Husband Buy You Flowers?

IMG_8751One of the many things I’ve learned from being married is that no two marriages will look the same, nor should they. Our culture paints idealistic cookie-cutter pictures of romance and love, but reality is often far from what we have seen in movies or read about in books. (By the way, I’ve found that reality is different, yes, but far deeper, richer, and more wonderful than the culture’s portrayal of it.)

Romance is one of those words that can encompass a million different things, but often gets squished into a few ideas: flowers, a candlelight dinner, hand-in-hand walks on the beach at sunset, etc. Those are all romantic and special ways of showing one another love, but romance can mean so much more!

Andrew is, in general, not a flower-buyer. He is not one of those guys who will randomly stop by the grocery store on his way home and pick up a bouquet of roses “just because” more than once or twice a year. This has never been a “hard” thing for me, but I have teased him over the years about it because he predictably buys me flowers on Valentine’s Day.

The summer I was expecting Caleb, I was dealing with a really difficult situation related to my apartment management job at the time. I left home in a puddle of tears for an errand. When I returned about 45 minutes later, Andrew was just washing the last of a huge stack of dirty dishes in my kitchen. I started crying again because it meant so much and it was such a relief to come home to a clean kitchen. (Dishes hang over my head like no other chore!)

“I was going to go buy you flowers,” Andrew explained, “but then I thought that washing the dishes would mean more to you, so I did that instead.”

In that moment, I realized that every time he voluntarily washes the dishes for me or speaks my love language in another way, it is like his “version” of bringing home flowers. Not only does it take the same thoughtfulness and love, but it really does mean more to me than flowers. I don’t particularly love flowers for the flowers’ sake. What I love is that they mean Andrew has thought about me and chosen to do something to tangibly convey that love. But he does that in a million other ways that are actually even better (to me) than flowers, and when I recognize that, there is no room for jealousy when I hear about a hubby who brings home bouquets on a regular basis.

I drafted this post about a year-and-a-half ago, and finally publishing it today ironically comes on the heels of a surprise bouquet of flowers from Andrew after a hard day. But the message I hope to convey is the same.

Don’t let the world’s definitions of love and romance make you miss out on the ways your spouse is already showing affection. Never play a game of comparison, and wish your hubby would be as romantic as your friend’s is. Observe and appreciate the “unconventional” ways he romances you, and treasure the reality that your marriage is uniquely yours, and your husband is uniquely him. He may not buy you flowers, but I’ll bet you can find his thoughtfulness in a hundred other gestures, if you’re just willing to stop and look.

 

{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)

Walking for Life!

DSC_0087I’m so excited to participate in the Santa Clarita Valley Pregnancy Center’s Walk for Life in just a few weeks! I’ve loved everything I’ve heard about this organization, and I am so thankful for the hard work they put in on the front lines of this important issue. They show the love of Christ and advocate for unborn children in a special way.

Will you consider sponsoring me for this walk? The money donated will go toward saving babies and coming alongside needy moms.

Below is the link, thank you so much in advance! =)

My Fundraising Page

{Mommy Journal} Facing My Fear (Pt 2)

DSC_0034It seems a terrible oversight that I did not specifically share any of the Scripture verses that have become precious to me in my recent battle with fear and anxiety. Many of these are becoming treasured old friends and I am beginning to memorize them without effort. It is a wonderful gift to have rich passages of truth hidden in my heart! I have found it amazing how God has spoken directly to my situation through HIs Word whenever I have opened it, so I won’t be able to list even close to all the verses He has blessed me with, but here are just a few.

Matthew 6:25, 27

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?…And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”

John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

1 Peter 1:3-9

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

Psalm 46:1-2

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea.”

Psalm 37:1-3

“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.”

James 1:12

“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

Psalm 61:2

“From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Philippians 4:6-7

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 34:4-8

I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!