Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dear Self on your 32nd birthday

"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus"
Phillipians 1:6 (NIV)

Yesterday was my birthday. 32 years...I mentally still feel like I should only be about 25, but a few fine lines around my eyes tell a different story. Staying up late is now midnight and no longer 3am, spanx has become my new best friend, and much of my naivete from my "youth" is gone. Although I am still quite young, I believe your 30's are when you start to realize that you are not going to be here for forever. I am in the season of life where I am watching my friends parents pass away and other friends who find out they have cancer.

It is a bittersweet time in my life. It is such a beautiful life God has given me, but I realize that it could all be taken away in the blink of an eye. Maybe it's because it is my birthday or maybe it's because I can be a tad bit pensive, but I have found myself asking God "why in the heck did He create me? What does He want me for?" By the way, I think being pensive can be a positive thing. For me, it is a moment where I step back from the busyness of life and look to the Father. I stop and dwell on who He is. I stop what I am doing and ponder if I am listening to what God wants from me. You see, I cannot experience the joy He has in store for me when I am too busy trying to figure out how to make myself happy on my own.

But who am I? I surely do not feel anointed in any way. I believe we are all given spiritual gifts, but sometimes I will admit my pride likes to see the fruits of my labor. I like to be able to see the work that God is doing through me...because I believe He is doing something through all of us who accept Him into our hearts. But, I have recently been feeling like God has been pressing on my heart this: "Sarah, I did not create you because of who YOU are, but because of who I am."

It is not about who we are, but who He is. Just dwell on this for a moment.

I honestly don't even know what that means except that He created me therefore He wanted me. And if He loves me, then He would want me to find joy in loving Him. And by finding joy in Him, I will fall deeper in love with Him. And the deeper I fall in love with Him, the more I hope my pride dies and I will see my purpose...which is all about letting His love shine through me. And truly, whether we feel anointed or not, we all are. We all are called to worship. 

So my desire for this 32nd year of this life He has given me is to grow more in love, grow more in my desire to worship, and to find joy in His presence. I want to see and feel those divine moments where He is near and I am drawing closer rather than pulling away.

I want to stop fearing those moments that He feels far away. I want His presence to be so known to me that my heart is constantly filled with a joy that only He can provide in my life. I want to want Him! I want to see the beauty in the mundane. I want to stop walking around so blind and see the blessings in my every day life. I want to live His purpose for me. I want to be able to give and express love and encouragement to others that only God can provide by allowing Him to use me.

He loves me and He loves you. And He isn't finished refining me (thank goodness!). Won't it be glorious when we are in Heaven and we can see the finished project?

Refine me God. I don't want to be me...I want only for you to shine through me.

Your favor is my delight.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesdays with Tabitha-Let it Shine

Tuesdays with Tabitha 

  "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid."
 " Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Matthew 5:14 & 16 (KJV)

We learn it when we’re young, but do we really follow through?

One of the first songs we teach little kids to sing at church is This Little Light of Mine. There is nothing cuter than watching them up there, tiny little pointer fingers spinning round and round as they proclaim that they are going to let their light shine, singing out loud and proud. We’ve all been there, pointer fingers spinning, shining our lights for Jesus.

But then we grow up, and we find that the world just isn’t as accepting of our lights shining as the Church congregation is, and it’s far more difficult to proclaim your love for Jesus to a lost and dying world than when you were five and adorable. But is that a good enough excuse to hide it under a bushel?

Nope. We need to let it shine.

In Matthew-written in red-Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world, and He compares us to a city set on a hill. It’s like when you’re driving out in the middle of nowhere at night, surrounded by darkness; nothing to light your way accept the stars and your headlights. Eventually, you can see glowing in the distance, the lights of a nearby city shining so brightly that it can be seen from miles away.

That’s what we’re supposed to look like to a lost and dying world.

Jesus commands us to let our lights shine! We are to be so full of God’s grace and love that we are bursting at the seams, and anyone who sees us or hears us speak can tell immediately that we are different-In the world, but not of it-transformed by our Savior and literally glowing with the light of Jesus living in our hearts.

We are to love the unlovable, give to those who don’t deserve it, and forgive even when it’s not asked of us. We are to show kindness to others, speak words dripping with grace, and extend favor to “the least of these” (Matthew 25:35-40). And really, we should want to, because we are saved to the uttermost, redeemed, and purchased with blood, free from sin and condemnation.

Because though we ourselves were undeserving, God loved us. He forgave us, He saved us, and He put a light in our hearts.

But sometimes, Satan tries to blow it out-and we let him-because we’re embarrassed to share our love story, and we’d rather hide our light under a bushel than to face the possibility of persecution of any kind. We don’t want to be labeled as a “Jesus Freak”, and we most certainly don’t want to share our limited time, money and resources with complete strangers just because the Bible tells us so.

It sounds selfish. Childish. Ungrateful. But sometimes, it’s how we live.

I don’t want to hide my light under a bushel anymore, and I don’t want satan to blow it out, either. I want to live for The One who died for me, so that everyone around me will see my good works-works that aren’t of myself, but works that are instead made possible through the Grace of Jesus living in my heart- and Glorify my Heavenly Father. I want to seek Him, to live Him, to love Him, and to become so full of Jesus that my heart explodes and overflows His love through everything that I do; His bright light shining out through my actions and words daily.

Jesus put His light in my heart, and I want to let it shine!

What can you do to let your light “so shine before men”?
What hinders you from being a city set on a hill?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

 "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!' "
Romans 10:14-15 (NIV)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturdays with Shawn-Thankfulness


 What are you thankful for?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 
James 1:17

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
Colossians 4:2
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.
Hebrews 12:28

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesdays with Tabitha: Jesus in a Box

"Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite."
Psalm 147:5

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m pretty sure my Jesus spends a lot of time in a box.

I’m quick to pull Him out on Sunday mornings for church, and when I can remember at breakfast, lunch and dinner. He’s also free to come out when I can manage to stay awake for my bedtime prayers, or in the extreme cases when I really need something from Him.

How sad is that?

Basically, I’m guilty of thinking of myself as bigger than Jesus; thinking that I can do things better my own way and in my own time. And because of that, I put Him in a little box with four walls, and I just pull Him out to talk when I’ve ran out of options and it’s convenient. I give Him rules, set boundaries, and place limitations on what He can do, where He can do it and when He can do it.

Because that’s how I stay in control.

Just like doubting Thomas, I can’t see Him, and I can’t always feel Him, either. I believe with all of my heart that the God that lives in me is the same God that parted the Red Sea, healed the blind, and is just as great a God today as was back then. But sometimes-when the enemy sends distractions in the form of temptation, stress, anger, or fear-I quickly forget.

And suddenly, God’s in a box again.

I know He’s capable of anything and everything, but I don’t trust what I can’t see, what I can’t feel at that very moment. And because of that, I falter. I try to fix things myself, take care of whatever is wrong, and I don’t talk to Jesus as a friend. I don’t ask Him to help me. I don’t thank Him when He does. And I certainly don’t let my light shine for Him in a dark and dying world, because that would mean giving up control, and giving someone else the credit.

But what If I took Jesus out of His box, and left Him out? What If I treated Him more like a friend-a Heavenly Father- and less like a story book character?

If I could focus on His presence daily in my life, I have no doubt that unthinkable things would happen. Because if I removed those boundaries from Him and stripped away the walls I’ve created myself, He would be unleashed to unload insane amounts of grace into my then-willing heart. I would come to Him for anything and everything-free of fear and condemnation-and He would rule my life, finally able to do amazing things in and through me as a willing vessel.

Miraculous things.

God doesn’t live in a box, and actually impossible for us to really put Him in one, but we can definitely hinder His power in our lives when we don’t trust Him. If we are looking to ourselves, we won’t get far. But if we can plug ourselves into the amazing power source that He is, we’ll shine so bright that nothing the enemy can send our way will ever be powerful enough to stop us, we’ll be able to accomplish anything (Philippians 4:13).

God wants to be powerful in our lives, to do great works through us and to shine His light through us every second of every day. He doesn’t want to be limited by our lack of faith, or defined by what our human minds believe He can and can’t do. But in order for Him to truly do remarkable things in our lives and in the lives of those around us, we have to fully trust Him, even when we can’t see Him or touch His nail scarred hands. Even when we can’t feel His presence or hear His still small voice.

No matter what, we have to seek Him, live Him, breathe Him.

And let Him out of that box.

Do you put limitations on the power of God by putting Him in a box, like me?
What can you do to make Him more real, more prominent in your life?
What will it take for you to let Him out and leave Him out?

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Adonai

"You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely." 
Psalm 139:1-4 (NIV)

I have been thinking a lot about why we pray. If God is just going to do whatever He wants anyway...if He is completely sovereign, then do my prayers really matter? I know that He commands us to pray.  I also know that this is a way to communicate with Him, but when I am in a season where I do not feel my prayers being answered, I question how important praying really is. Does prayer really change anything? If He already knows what I am going to ask, why do I need to ask?

"Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
Matthew 6:8 (NIV)

I ask my husband what I am supposed to pray for if God already knows what I need.  He is used to my almost child like questions and gives me that crooked eyebrow look and says "Sarah, prayer isn't your wish list." I snidely think "well I know...that's what Santa Clause is for, right?" But I do not say this out loud...afraid God doesn't have the same sense of humor that I do (although, I think since He created me, maybe He is funnier than I give Him credit). But doesn't He tell us to let our request be made known to Him? (Phillipians 4:6-7) 

I am constantly asking the childish "but why?" and my husband with his uncomplicated faith is always at peace with a simple "because He says so." But, I want to understand why it is so important that we pray.

The past two Sundays, I have heard our pastor briefly mention the name Adonai in reference to scripture in Isaiah 6. The sermon was not about the name, but that word has been at the forefront of my mind all week. Adonai is the original Hebrew word used in scripture that translates as a noun and means: My Lord, Master, Sovereign One. It is authoritative. It is acknowledgement that God is completely sovereign.

(A little fact: I read at home and discover that the original singular word is Adon and is used over 200 times in the Bible. However, when in reference to God it is used in plural form Adonai. Some scholars believe it was used this way to indicate the trinity.)

This week, I ponder when in my life have I felt closest to God through prayer and what made me feel close at that particular time. What made me feel that my prayers were heard? It did not take me long to think of this time in my life as it was a time not that long ago. Never have I spent more time in prayer than both when I was pregnant with the twins and after delivering them 12 weeks early. There is nothing like the fear of death of a child (or children in my case) to bring you to your knees. So,  what made that time different than other times of prayer?

I read through a few of my posts from that summer of 2010 in hopes of getting a glimpse into what was stirring in my heart and soul. These few sentences from August 9th (the entry was entitled "Before the Journey is Clear" ) clearly showed me why I felt such an intense presence of God at that time. I wrote:

I do not know what God's plan is for me and my beautiful babies. He may or may not allow my babies to be healthy and come home with me. Don't get me wrong...the thought of having my babies go to Heaven instead of my arms is completely unfathomable. I certainly beg God for His mercy on my grave situation. And yes, I sometimes feel despair and anger.

You see, during that grave time, I was in fact calling Him Adonai. I had recognized that my plan and desires may not be God's plan.  I had surrendered that I was powerless...that I was totally and completely dependent on Adonai. I was in complete and utter despair, but I knew His hands were involved in every detail.

And there is so much beauty and growth in surrender. Although God does not need our prayers, He is honored when we call upon Him. We are calling Him Adonai. We are bringing our requests before Him yet in a way that acknowledges He is completely sovereign.

And I believe it is in the recognition of this name that will completely change how and why we pray to our Adonai.

Our amazing, sovereign, compassionate, and loving Adonai

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre." 
Psalm 149:3

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturdays with Shawn: Water


 With joy you will draw waters from the wells of salvation.
Isaiah 12:3
There the Lord will be our Mighty One. It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams. No galley with oars will ride them, no mighty ship will sail them.
Isaiah 33:21

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.
John 7:38

Saturdays with Shawn is brought to you by:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Motherhood: Pressing Out the Selfishness

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."
Titus 2:3-5 (NIV)

God did not intend for us to go about life on our own. He desires for us to encourage and lift each other up. And although we are given such a special oneness with our spouses, there is just nothing that can replace a friend of the same gender. My girlfriends, especially those who have gone through stages before me, are my greatest cheerleaders. They are the ones who have loved me when my eyes were smeared with black mascara because I was a wreck with my first born: the one who never stopped crying. They have been living examples of Jesus for me and I am so thankful for the legacy they are leaving in my life.

I have one near and dear sister in Christ who has been a mentor to me and many others. To me, she is the crown jewel of mothers. Not because she is perfect, but because she is determined to allow God to use motherhood to "push out her sin." It is my favorite saying of hers that I have passed on to other mothers as well. So, today, I am going to loan her sweet heart to all of you. She IS my Titus 2 woman. After reading her words, you will understand why I just adore every ounce of her. Enjoy this special treat from my friend :

June 17, 2009 Pressing Out the Selfishness
About three years ago, when I had a nearly three year old and a 14 month old, I was sitting in a bible study of mostly women older than me.  Most of them had passed the mothering young children stage and had either children in college or early twenties, or were grandmothers.  Even though I was almost three years into my mothering experience, it still seemed new and fresh.  I had completed the first year of having two kids, under the age of three.  Having one child was a cakewalk compared to having to balance and adjust life to two kids, not to mention my nearly three year old was a difficult one at best.
At some point during the discussion, I can’t even recall the topic now, I made an off handed comment about how parenting is God’s way of pressing the selfishness out of you.  I laughed as I said it, but one of the ladies there, probably around 50ish, just loved the statement.  So much in fact that she wrote it down.  Imagine, I said something profound, when really it was just my state of life – an internal war going on within me.  A war between what I wanted, and what my babies wanted.  I wanted quiet, they were loud.  I wanted rest, they were playful.  I wanted my nearly three year old daughter to stop hitting her sister, and well, you can guess what she wanted.  I wanted to read my email, and they wanted to bang their little fingers on the computer keyboard messing up any attempt at what I was doing.  I wanted to eat cookies, but they wanted one too.  I wanted to have long lunches with friends, but they would not sit still long enough.  I wanted to have uninterrupted conversations with my husband, but they were constantly diverting our attention from each other because they wanted the attention.
I now have three kids, ages 2, 4 and 6 (btw - my difficult three year old turned out to be a real gem).  I also have one on the way, due in November.  Through the constant needs and demands of three small children, God had indeed continued to press out the selfishness.  He is refining me by the fire, so to speak.  He has made me practice the art daily, hourly, sometimes by the second.  He has shown me how to serve others, how to love the little ones, but not at the expense of meeting my own needs, or developing my own relationship with Him.  He certainly does not call us to be a doormat.  I expand on this topic in another post.
Yes, God’s way of pressing out the selfishness.  God’s way of teaching the ultimate lesson that Jesus teaches us – lay down your life.  Serve others.  Love others above yourself.  Hmmm…is that a lesson I wanted to learn?  Am I being called to lay down every part of me that make me myself just to raise my kids?  Well, yes…..but in the process, I have become more of who I actually am.  More of who I want to be, and more of who God created me to be.  Lay down your life, know God more and come more fully into yourself….interesting concept and completely contradictory to what the world teaches.
Part of developing a deeper relationship with Christ is letting go and allowing the selfishness to be pressed out.  Hanging on to that selfishness, while it might seem easier in the moment, is indeed harder and ultimately, more frustrating in the long run.  More of You, less of me.  You increase, I decrease.  Christ was the ultimate servant, and if we call ourselves Christians, our life’s work should be to imitate what he has done…lay down our lives. 
But we fight it.  Oh we fight it.  I want what I want, when I want it.  I want quiet.  I want to not be interrupted.  I want a clean kitchen.  I want my children to always behave in public and not embarrass me.  I want accolades for a job well done.  I want to sleep late, to take a nap, to watch anything I want on TV.  Did I mention I want quiet?  I want to drive in the car without answering 1000 questions between here and the grocery store.  I want to shop alone!
But I also want to know God.  I also want to become more like Jesus.  I also want pure joy in my life, regardless of my circumstances.  I want to leave a legacy of faith throughout generations, I want to stand before the throne of God and hear “well done good and faithful servant.”  I want my children to know Jesus and to live a life glorifying to Him.  I want, more than anything, to know Him, because I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that knowing Him is the purpose of my life.
Do I get to have perfect kids, a clean kitchen, a quiet home and still get to know the Creator of the Universe in the way that I want to know him?  Is it possible to live a comfortable and easy life, be as selfish as I want, and still truly and deeply know Him?
Anything’s possible, but in this moment, in my life, I know the daily task of raising my children is actively pressing out the very thing that keeps me from the Lord…my own self.  My own selfish desires.  If the opposite of loving God is loving yourself, then it makes perfect sense that He calls us to press out that which keeps us from him.  And what a beautiful plan God has to make that happen – our little ones.
People have very mixed reactions to us having a fourth child.  Some are elated, most don’t understand and some show flat out disdain.  But with each child, a little bit more selfishness is pressed out on a daily basis (and yet somehow there is always more to be pressed!)  But you know what’s left to replace it?  Joy.  Pure joy.  Not happiness over circumstances –mothering young children is no piece of cake, let’s just be honest.  But a joy remains that only God can provide through an active an on-going relationship with Him.  It is a joy that comes only by allowing Him to sanctify us through the practice of raising children.
Press on Lord Jesus.  Bring it.

Amen my sister in Christ!! Thank you for being a Titus 2 woman to us all. Bring it Jesus!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mother: Disciple and to discipline

 "When I was a son to my father,
Tender and the only son in the sight of my mother,
 Then he taught me and said to me,
'Let your heart hold fast my words;
Keep my commandments and live.' "
Proverbs 4:3-4 (NAS)

It is a season. A season where my 20 month old twins have temper tantrums and my recently turned four year old is testing me in new ways. It is a season where I feel like all I do is discipline all day long.

And it is exhausting. It is frustrating. I am tired.

But, they are the future. And they were given to me to help mold and shape. I am to discipline them and be their disciple. Have you ever noticed the similarities in those two words?

I take my role as mother very seriously. And I refuse to fail them.

So, there may be times where I seem absent from the world. There will be days where I don't fulfill my desires to write on this blog daily. There may even be several days in a row. But know that is because I also take my role of disciple very seriously...and I would never write anything that was not prayerfully sought out and completely heart felt. So, if you don't hear from me now and then, just know that I still stop and pray daily for each of you who come here seeking truth and love.

But, as a mother, I only get these few short years before other people start having heavy influences on their fragile hearts. And I am desperately trying to raise warriors for Christ. I am trying to equip them for what will be a very hard world to live in I'm afraid. I have such a short amount of time to earn their respect so that they will trust my wisdom and guidance.

The world is thinking of the perfect gift for Mother's Day this weekend and my only true desire is for my children to know and find joy in the Lord. Mother's will be praised and honored this weekend and yet, I find myself on my knees saying "God, were you crazy choosing me? Please don't let me screw this up!"

So, I am still here. Maybe not as often as I had originally thought. But, just know that is because I am busy washing three little sets of hands and feeding hungry tummies. As a mother, I was called to be their disciple.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesdays with Tabitha: Good In, Good Out

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Matthew 6:21 (KJV)

Simple concept to follow, right? All you have to do is follow the rules; put only good things in, and only good things will come out. Super easy, yes?

Not so much.

This world we live in is corrupt. Every where you turn yields temptation, fear, depression, anxiety, anger and hurt. Is seems as if the only way to escape the snares of the enemy is to live in a bubble, protected by oblivion. But since the Bible comands us to be in the world but not of it, we have to figure out how to survive in a sin cursed world while trying our best to stand out as a light for our Savior.

But how are we supposed to do that?

Psalms 119:11 tells us to hide the Word in our hearts. In other words, memorize scripture. Study the Bible, seek God's face, seek His wisdom. If we are dilligently seeking Jesus and His will in our lives, then His presense will become our treasure, and our heart will follow.

Good will go in, and good will.come out.

It's through His Word-the Bible-that God speaks to us. And though I'm guilty of not practicing what I'm about to preach here, it's amazing how effective memorizing scripture can be in keeping your heart turned toward God.

I've found from my own personal experience that what I watch and what I listen too also have a major effect on how I behave how I treat others, and how I think. When I put in bad things-like negative, corrupt telivision shows and dirty, curse filled songs-into my daily routine, I feel weighed down. Heavy. Sometimes even sad and defeated.

But when I spend my time hiding Gods Word in my heart, listening to Christian music and worship songs, holding a Bible in my lap instead of a remote, or a great devotion book instead of a magazine, I feel refreshed. Content. Lifted up.

In the world, but not of the world.

Phillipians 4:8 tells us exactly what we should be thinking on to attain peace. Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. If we think on these things-if we put good things in-we have a promise that the God of peace will be with us!

So, knowing what I know about how to attain peace as opposed to anxiety, you'd expect that I'd spend all of my time reading the Bible and hiding it in my heart, right?

Unfortunetly, wrong.

There are days when I get up early and spend time in prayer. I don't turn on the tv even once and I only listen to Klove. I talk with God continualy through out the day and I feel successful, vibrant, and so alive. I find it much easier to speak kind words to others, and I become hungry and encouraged to act selflessly and do all that I can to further Gods kingdom.

Then the next day I'd rather just watch tv and willow in self pity because I'm having a bad day.

It's a vicious cycle, one that the enemy no doubt enjoys watching me struggle with. But the great thing about our God is that He is faithful and just to forgive us, and more importantly, He let's us start over again the next day with a clean slate.

No matter what.

So let's be encouraged to put good in, so that good will come out. Let's think on things that will bring us peace, and take some time to hide God's word in our hearts, so that our treasure will be found in the right place, and we'll be free from the anxiety and depression that swollows so many.

It really is a simple concept after all!

Do you struggle with finding time alone with God each day?
If you could be honest with yourself, where would you say your treasure (and your heart) truely is?
In your own life, what makes it difficult to put only good things into your mind and body?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Balloons in Heaven

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
1 Peter 1:8-9 (NIV)

She turned four this past weekend. My first born already seems suddenly wiser and more mature. I can remember that first moment I held her and the nurse wheeled me through the hall with my hour old baby. It was surreal then and she still feels surreal to me now. I laid awake the entire night just staring at her...marveled at this creation. In awe, I kept touching her little fingers and toes in disbelief that she was really mine. And when she awoke for the first time that night to nurse, I was overwhelmed by the responsibility that God had given me. I realized what a complete treasure she was and how big my job was at that moment. 

Four years later and I still marvel at this gift. Little children shower her with gifts, but I know that she is really the gift. At the end of the party, we release four balloons into the sky. It is our family tradition and our way of telling God thank you for the years He has given us this gift (each balloon represents a year). I am a very visual person, so it is a special moment for me as her mother. We watch them until they disappear and I close my eyes and imagine God catching them and adding them to His collection that we have sent Him. 

As I tucked her into bed, she asked me when she would get to see Jesus so she could have her balloons back. I laughed of course. 

"Will He be at my window tonight when I sleep? Will He bring them back then? Will He come to my door?"

"No baby. You will not see Jesus until you go to Heaven."

"When am I going to Heaven? When I'm ten?"

"I hope not. I hope you live a really long life...and that you get married and have babies and grow old. Then, when it is time, God will come take you to Heaven."

"Will I fly?"

"I don't think so.  I think He will carry you. But, don't worry, He will help you get there."

 "Where is He right now? Is He in this room?"

"He is everywhere."

"But, how come I can't see Him? Is He in my heart?"

I pause. I am unprepared for this talk. I really thought we were a few more years away from deep religious discussions. How does one answer a question like this when it is hard even as an adult to understand? How do we see Jesus?

"Well, one day when you want Him, you will ask Him into your heart. And when you do that, He will open your eyes and heart so that you can experience His love while you are living on Earth. It's like the wind: you can feel it, but you can't see it. And He will never leave you. When you die, then you will see what He looks like in Heaven."

"Will He have my balloons? 

"If that is what would make you happy, then He will meet you with them. He has many treasures in Heaven for us."

And with this reply, she lays down with a smile on her face. She is indeed one of His greatest works in the eyes of her mother. And just like that night at the hospital, I do not sleep much. I lay awake thinking about her. But instead of counting her fingers and toes, I am thinking about her heart: and praying that she will indeed see and want His love. I don't just want her to know Him...I want her to experience that overwhelming joy that comes in a relationship with Him. And that from experiencing that joy, she will see Him dwelling in her heart.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saturdays with Shawn: Balance

The most common questions discussed amongst my girlfriends:

How are you balancing it all?
How are you keeping Him at the center of everything?
How are you finding peace amidst the busyness?

As my beloved spiritual mentor has reminded in moments like these, 
"get in the Word!"
Be encouraged and know that peace is on the horizon when you let go .. and let God.
Rest in Him.


You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. 
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4: 7-8

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4: 6-7

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Proverbs 3: 24

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. 
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beautiful lips

 "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving."
Ephesians 5:4 (NIV)

I can't remember exactly how old she was. Somewhere close to age 2 or a little there after and I heard something come out my oldest daughters mouth that left me completely flabbergasted. I was changing her diaper when she said it with a little smirk on her face.


At first I thought I was wrong. Certainly my little innocent girl had not just uttered such an ugly word (yes, that's an ugly word in our house. My children are all ages 3 and under remember.). My suspicions were confirmed when she said it a second time that day and my husband confirmed he thought she had said it the day before.

It must have been the Disney movies I figured at the time. Although every little girl loves a Disney princess movie, they are notorious for name calling: fool, stupid, imbecile. You don't notice these things until you have little ears who hear the words. I asked my girlfriends how to handle the situation as I knew she had no idea what it meant. She wasn't even directing the word towards anyone. To her, it was just another word to add to her repertoire. "Do you ignore and hope she'll stop...does giving it attention make it that much more appealing to say? Or do you explain why that is something that is usually not nice to say?"My favorite response (as was the mutual response from many) was to tell her that her mouth was too pretty to have ugly words come out of her mouth." That has sense become a favorite family saying anytime we need to address a word that isn't the nicest. 

Days later I was having a conversation with a friend on the phone and I uttered what will forever ingrain the saddest look of disappointment in my life.  Who knows what the conversation was about, but the casual saying of "that's so stupid" came out of my mouth and I immediately looked at that little round face of hers.

You would have thought that I had just committed the unpardonable sin by the look on her face. 

"We don't say that word, right Mommy?" she asked with a slight frown of disapproval. "You mouth is too pretty!"

Great. Not only did I have a two year old saying stupid, but she had actually learned it from her mother. A mother who prides herself on speaking properly, yet now realized how many times in conversations with adults I'd utter the phrase "that's so stupid." It was a humbling experience. 

At first, I wanted to explain that mommy doesn't mean it in a demeaning way. But, a toddler cannot understand this. There is no room for grey areas in their lives. This event made me think about why it is so important how we handle ourselves in front of nonbelievers.

A few years ago, I would have turned this into a legalistic situation. But this has nothing to do with "good Christians" versus "bad Christians"...because, we are ALL bad.  But you see, toddlers and nonbelievers are very similar. They both are looking and seeking. If we claim to have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of use, yet what comes out of our mouths is filth, you can see how it would be very confusing to a seeker. (Obviously the word "stupid" is an elementary example, but you understand my point).

You see, it's not God shaking His finger at us (that's how legalistic people think). It is God saying "how can they know unless you let me show them through you and your character?" It is a fine line indeed between legalism and wanting to be a witness for Christ. Our character is not what makes us right with God. He created us and loved us knowing all we would say and do. But, people are in fact looking at out character whether we want them to or not. How imperative it is for us to show God's love through what comes from our lips (rather than watching what we say because we think God will be disappointed with us. He is not. We are His beloved). 

Seeing life through the eyes and hearing it through the mouth of my child has totally changed my perspective on why God guides us to be shining lights for Him. We are full of sin and our flesh will naturally want to exude anger and sarcasm. But when I think of how I want my child to so desperately know Christ, I know that beauty must always be exuded from my lips. 

And in return, she will learn what true beauty looks like.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesdays with Tabitha: My Verse, My story

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

  Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)

My husband and I needed a family verse, one that we could place at the end of our wedding photo album.  A verse that covered all the bases, answered all questions, and fit perfectly into the space that was provided by the picture of us walking down a dirt path by the water, with the train of my dress dragging behind as we began our new life together.
We chose Proverbs 3:5-6.  It sounded beautiful, and in the midst of a perfect life as newlyweds with the world in our hands, it was exactly what we knew.
It was perfect.  But I had no idea how perfectly it would fit into what God had in store for us.   
Three months after we were married, my husband and I decided that we were ready to have a baby, and we secretly started trying for our family.  Two years later, after several tests and procedures had stamped us as “normal”, we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility.  And after several attempts at IUI’s (intro-uterine insemination) failed to bring us a baby, we felt defeated.
I never imagined it would be so difficult for us to have a family, and infertility certainly wasn't a part of our plan.  For the first time in my life, I couldn't get what I wanted, when I wanted it.  I couldn't talk my way into a baby.  I couldn't buy one.  I had absolutely no control over this situation, and for someone as type A as me, that was a difficult pill to swallow.
I felt broken.  Bitter.  Resentful.  All around me, friends, loved ones and strangers danced around me, bellies swollen with beautiful babies, and I had an un-diagnosed, medical mystery of a broken uterus.  And though I never reached the point of being angry at God, looking back now I can see that while I was full of pretty words, memorized verses, and practiced phrases about God’s faithfulness, I had grown weary of waiting for His timing. I had taken matters into my own hands, relying on myself to find answers and get things done.
Running out of options, we made an appointment with a specialist in another city, and had finally stumbled upon some surprising answers.  Now diagnosed with a mild case of male infertility, the doctors had come to the conclusion that it was best that we moved on to the most evasive medical procedure possible, IVF.
And I had concluded that I could no longer do this on my own.
I had to make a choice.  I could spend my life waddling in self pity and drowning in sorrow, or I could leave my troubles at the feet of the only One who could make things right. I knew it was imperative to put my favorite verse into action if I were to survive the coming months of probing, testing, hormone injections, retrievals and the waiting game.  I had to take those beautiful words and make them my own, bury them deep in my heart and finally believe them.
Slowly, God began to change my heart.  But the seed of bitterness had already taken root, and just like a stubborn weed it was easy to pull up for a short time but always managed to grow back, and removing it was a daily battle.   And over the next year I rode the roller coaster of infertility, watching and waiting as three cycles of what was supposed to be a fool proof solution to our problems still failed to yield us a baby.
I was starting to question God again.  I was scooting as close to Him as I could possibly get, yet my prayers weren't getting answered, at least not the way I wanted them to.  Even the doctors were surprised that we hadn't achieved a pregnancy yet, and we were nearing our fourth and final try.  I could handle the shots, the painful retrievals, and the dreadful two week wait, but IVF is an expensive procedure.  And though I was handling it fine physically, the mental aspect of the ups and downs was taking its toll.  We were headed for our last try, and we prepared our hearts for what was to come.
I took a pregnancy test the night before our blood test to confirm whether or not we were pregnant, unable to wait any longer.  And my hopes and dreams were instantly shattered as I stared long and hard at just one line on the pregnancy test.
I remember feeling calm.  My heart was breaking and I had no idea what I was going to do, but there was a peace.  And I was able to keep my composure while setting in the chair the next day in the cold, sterile clinic, watching the nurse fumble with my vein as she tried her best to extract my blood to confirm what I already knew.
God had given us our final answer, and it was no.
A few hours later, I received a call.  It was the nurse from our doctor’s office, and she let me know that while a beta of eleven was a very low number, there was still hope.
The home pregnancy test was unable to pick up such a low number, so it was negative.  But I was pregnant.
We poured our heart out to God in the following days, praising Him for this blessing, and begging Him to let us keep it.  And after then next series of blood test confirmed that our beta of eleven had dropped to zero and we had lost our baby, there was still peace.
We were forced to believe that if we trusted God-and not ourselves-He would direct our paths.
Numb, heartbroken and devastated, I strived to continue to praise God that even if it was for a short time, I had been given the gift of life growing inside of me.  Just as Job 1:21 said, the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.   All of the medication was stopped, and we waited for the baby we had waited and prayed years for to disappear.
Then, a few days later, we got another call.
There had been a mistake.  My blood test had to be re-ran.  I hadn't lost the baby, my beta had risen and I had still been pregnant a week ago.  Instructions were given to re-start the medications right away, and another blood test had to be taken.  We needed to make sure my beta was still raising and that the baby was still alive, since the necessary medication had been stopped. This had never happened before.  They were so very sorry.  Prayers went up that life was still growing despite the mistake. We needed a miracle.
Nine months later, our miracle was born, a healthy 8lbs and 9oz and all kinds of beautiful.
From the beginning, God had a plan. He never made a mistake, and He knew what was best for us.  He knew that infertility would test my patience, my sanity, my faith.  He also knew that it would make me a better mother, a more compassionate person, and a more faithful servant. 
Now, more than ever, I believe Proverbs 3:5-6.  I have lived it, I've experienced it, and I've survived it.  I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalms 34:8) and though I still experience times when it’s hard to see Him in the midst of a struggle, I can always look at my sweet Scarlett Grace as a reminder of His mercy and faithfulness.
And now, as we approach our miracle baby’s first birthday in just a few short days, we are in the beginning stages of embarking on another infertility journey.  This time, I can dive in with my eyes and heart open, knowing that no matter what the end result is, God is good.
And If I trust Him fully, He will direct my path-even if it’s not the road I intended to travel down.

Do you find it difficult to trust the Lord in the middle of life’s struggles?
Do you have a favorite verse that sometimes just looks like pretty words?
When in your life have you “tasted and seen that the Lord is good”?
For more on my infertility journey, visit my blog, Think (+) Positive