Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Thanks for reading--through the flurry of posting every November and through the lean times when I barely manage to put up a gratitude post every week. I am honored that you give me your time and consider what I have to say!
Monday, November 29, 2010
--Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening
Thanking God this week for...
1066. two places to call "home"
1067. Christmas music
1068. Steve's getting an extra week of vacation this year
1069. doting grandparents
1070. safe travels
1071. Jude starting to smile at us
1072. His protection of some friends in a car accident
1073. a strong immune system
1074. a date with my handsome hubby while Grammy watched the boys
1075. opportunities to sleep in
1077. getting to see high school and college friends
1078. children's Tylenol
1079. grace to persevere in nursing
1080. lasagna out of the freezer for lunch today
1081. vegetable beef soup out of the freezer for supper
1082. Elijah in a plaid button-down shirt
1083. Jude in a fuzzy blue bear snowsuit
1084. hot apple cider
1085. time with Him this morning to get my Monday off to a good start
Sunday, November 28, 2010
One quick conversation-starter before I sign off for the evening: What's your favorite Christmas music? I generally wait until after Thanksgiving to start listening to Christmas music, so I always look forward to the drive home from Thanksgiving when I finally break out all my holiday albums. One of my very favorites is Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man. I also really enjoy David Phelps' Joy, Joy--and we loved discovering Straight No Chaser's Holiday Spirits last winter. And Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas is a classic, too.
This year I am planning to buy Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. Half our church is obsessed with him, and I loved the two songs from that album that were performed at our Christmas celebration last year.
So I'm curious to hear--what Christmas albums do you wear out every December?
Saturday, November 27, 2010
I haven't been online a whole lot this week, so I haven't read many blogs, so I don't have much to share with you today :) But thought I would offer up two quick Thanksgiving-related links--one I read this week, and one I remembered from a couple of years ago...
Thanksgiving Rightly Addressed - A Holy Experience
Thinking this week about how glad I am to know Whom to thank in this season of celebrating gratitude--and remembered this old post from (who else?) Ann, who writes, "...if gratitude is sensed only as a global, vague feeling, addressed to no one in particular, it’s as good as not sent. Non-existent."
Russell Moore notes that "gratitude is spiritual warfare" and shares a convicting story, asking, "Is there anything in your life that you’ve grown accustomed to? Is there something you prayed for, fervently, in pleading in its absence that you haven’t prayed for, fervently, in thanksgiving in its presence?"
Friday, November 26, 2010
In the comments section for Monday's post about anger, Jenny asked a great question that I hope to come back to soon. Meanwhile, I found in my drafts folder and wanted to share this excerpt from a great article I read on Boundless quite a while back:
From emotional outbursts to weather complaints, anger arises from a failure to believe the truth, and belief that God owes me something: better weather or better marital intimacy or whatever.
Belief in this false promise is unbelief in God's promises.
Powlison points out that we express our anger towards God in three main ways. First, anger either ignores or rejects the sovereign freedom of God. Second, it's a refusal to believe God's promise to work for our good in all things, even drastic changes in climate. Third, it enthrones our will for comfort over God's will, effectively assuming personal supremacy over God. It puts God in the dock.
We've seen these three elements from my personal struggles with anger, noting their Satanic, not Christlike character. At the root of anger is an enthronement of our will, an idolatry of our way, and a refusal to exercise a contented trust in God's providence.
...At the cross our good and God's glory converge. Angry sinners are forgiven and God's righteous anger is preserved. At the cross we witness Jesus bearing the brunt of God's righteous anger for our unrighteous anger, cutting remarks and constant complaining.--Jonathan Dodson, "Anger: The Image of Satan"
Thursday, November 25, 2010
1056. knowing and loving me before time began
1057. adopting me as His child
1059. the fact that five years later, I still look at him and marvel at the fact that I got to marry him
1061. the way he gets more and more fun as he gets older
1062. the progress he made in communication this summer
1064. his beautiful entry into the world
1065. the anticipation of smiles and coos
1066. use of all five senses
1067. use of my arms and legs
1068. the ability to drive
1069. slings and soft structured carriers for babywearing
1070. the habit of journaling
1071. the natural substances He created for healing the body
1072. my parents
1073. my in-laws
1074. our extended families
1075. living in an age when traveling long distances to see them is entirely realistic and happens relatively often
1076. high school friends
1077. college friends
1078. friends from our old church
1079. friends from our new church
1080. friends I've made online
1081. my camera
1082. health insurance
1083. our church
1084. our pastors
1085. gospel-centered sermons
1086. sustaining me through sleep deprivation so I mostly feel OK
1087. an abundant milk supply
1088. opportunities to grow in patience and compassion
1089. a freezer full of meals
1090. clean water
1092. the gift of weakness, so I can experience His sustaining grace
1093. the example of Steve's servanthood
1094. online shopping
1095. comfortable mattresses
1096. snuggling with Steve to keep warm
1097. the funny things Elijah says
1098. His mercy in the face of my fear and unbelief
1099. the privilege of taking CCEF classes
1100. Steve's job
1101. the ability to read
1102. old blog posts and journals, a record of where I've been
1104. peri bottles
1105. progress on our remodeling projects
1107. pumpkin spice lattes
1109. long walks
1110. the KidTalk study
1112. nerve endings in the skin
1114. Mason jars
1116. the privilege of generosity
1117. hearing my prayers
1118. others' intercession on my behalf
1119. praying *with* others, especially with Steve and with my friends Lydia & Laura
1120. written-out prayers
1121. His ability to sympathize with my weakness
1122. remembering that I am dust
1123. not breaking or snuffing me out in my weakness
1124. never leaving or forsaking me
1125. piling promises upon promises
1126. Jesus, in whom all those promises are YES!
1127. His perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true Word
1128. the ability to memorize it
1129. its power to defeat satan's schemes
1130. teaching me to see Jesus everywhere in it
1131. Sharpie pens
1132. ice cream
1134. dealing blows to my pride
1135. children's music that Elijah loves and that doesn't annoy us
1136. pretty fonts
1137. frozen chocolate
1138. the sweet smell of a nursing newborn
1140. snail mail
1142. exercise ball
1145. digital photography
1146. the hope of Heaven
1147. gospel-centered music
1151. the change of the seasons
1152. growing and changing me
1153. never changing in His character or promises
1154. the realization that all gifts, temporal and eternal, great and small, are from His hand
1155. the cross, which purchased all these gifts for me
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Some thoughts rolled around in my head at 2 AM, as I lay curled up next to my miserable toddler:
It is humbling...
to have to wake your sleeping husband and whisper through tears that you can't deal with the wide-awake, screaming newborn anymore.
It is comforting...
to experience the truth of the promise that God gives grace to the humble--grace in this instance coming in the specific form of a patient, understanding, sensitive, gentle, strong, selfless husband who immediately hugged me and took over.
It is frustrating...
to listen to your child scream and have no idea what is wrong because he can't or won't tell you where it hurts or why he's upset--and to feel helpless because you can't fix it.
It is reassuring...
to know that my Heavenly Father never experiences that frustration or helplessness--that His ears are attentive to His children's cries, that He knows exactly why I am upset even when *I* don't know, and that He has the power *and* the wisdom *and* the love to do what's best for me, always.
It is difficult...
to persevere in breastfeeding when you're in so much pain.
It is hope-giving...
to remember that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us...that this light momentary affliction is preparing for [me] an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison...and that Jesus endured far, far more excruciating pain to provide me with eternal life and joy.
And then, as I lay in the dark practicing gratitude for these truths, some song lyrics came to mind as a benediction (a friend sang this song at our wedding, actually):
Two kids and a dream
With kids that can scream
Too much it might seem
When it is two a.m.
When I am weak, unable to speak
Still I will call You by name
Oh, Shepherd, Savior, Pasture-Maker
Hold on to my hand...
And You say, "I AM."
(Nichole Nordeman, "I Am")
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Lord, You alone are steadfast,
and I am astoundingly not so--
scattered thoughts not taken captive,
warped desires and perceptions,
"Prone to wander," as the old song goes;
utterly without hope
if the clinging, keeping, remaining steadfast
depends on me.
But You are the Giver of Life,
breathing into these dead bones
removing the blindness so I could see
and You who exchanged my heart of stone
for a heart of flesh
can, must, will
"take and seal it for Thy courts above."
You alone could reckon me righteous,
and You alone can keep me blameless.
So I cast myself on Your sovereign grace
and plead with the psalmist, the hymn writer,
"let me not wander."
Let me not wander.
Clothe me in the righteousness of my blameless Savior;
Keep me by the power of Your steadfast love.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Anytime you start linking "anger" and "sin," Christians generally pull out the trump card of Ephesians 4:26 - "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger..." The argument is fairly simple: This verse separates anger and sin; therefore, it is possible to be angry and not be sinning; therefore, anger (in and of itself) is not a sin.
Following this line of reasoning, I used to believe that anger itself was not sinful, that rather, it was what you *did* with the anger that mattered. I no longer believe it's that simple. I've come to see how the emotion itself, not just the actions that accompany it, carries potential for sin and needs closer examination.
Anger is a response to a perceived wrong. We get angry when something is not as we think it should be. And so anger is not automatically valid, a neutral emotion to be expressed, "vented," voiced and affirmed. Whether anger is right or wrong depends first on whether our perception of reality is right or wrong.
Dr. David Powlison writes:
"The arousal of anger is either good or bad. It may arise for good reasons: e.g., someone I trusted betrayed trust, or someone threatens to harm a child. It may arise for bad reasons: e.g., I'm stuck in a traffic jam, or someone at work had the audacity to disagree with my brilliant ideas and plans.So the potential for sin isn’t simply in how anger is expressed. There’s also sin potential in my anger itself—is it justified, or is it rooted in attitudes and expectations that exalt me and ignore the true and living God? I’d argue that most of the time, at least in my life, it’s the latter. My anger may be “understandable” to fellow sinners—but it’s not righteous in God’s sight.
The motives for anger are either good or bad. Desires, beliefs, expectations, values, intentions may be good. Jesus' anger expresses faith working through love; our anger can move in his direction. Or our motives may be bad: wrong beliefs, idolatrous desires, self-pity/self-righteousness.
And, of course...the expression of anger is always either good or bad (or, again, that complication in things human, mixed). For example, anger expresses love when it energizes you to protect the helpless by opposing victimizers. And anger expresses hate when you get into petty arguments or when you bully others.
That doesn't mean I think anger should be stuffed and ignored. I think it should be acknowledged (just check out the Psalms), worked through, and repented of if necessary. But I don't think it should be unchallenged.
Dr. Powlison elaborates in chapter 13 of his book Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling Through the Lens of Scripture:
“Anger, like all emotions, is something you do as a whole person. Anger involves active things such as thoughts, attitudes, expectations, words, and deeds, as well as the more passively sensed ‘feeling’ of being angry. …Anger is a common human response to a perceived wrong. It is even part of being made in the image of a moral God. Anger can be either right or wrong. …Biblically, anger may be either justified or unjustified, either wrongly or rightly expressed. It is much more than an emotion. Human anger is potentially righteous but is usually laced with sin.I hope that helps to clarify my thinking on the issue of anger. In summary: Anger isn't always wrong, but it often reveals the idolatrous desires lurking in the human heart. And if my anger is prompted and driven by idolatrous demands, then it's sinful, regardless of whether I outwardly treat people wrongly in my anger or not.
“The need for an objective, moral evaluation is obscured when anger is viewed simply as a feeling. If anger is a feeling that happens to me, then it is intrinsically legitimate. ‘Just as when I cut my finger I feel hurt, so when you offend me I feel angry. I need only to get in touch with my anger and then express it in socially appropriate ways.’ But when anger is evaluated by God (e.g., James 1:19-20; 3:2-4:12) that simple equation breaks down. I acknowledge anger in order to examine it in God’s light. In all likelihood I will learn about my self-righteousness, my god playing, my demands. I will be brought to my need for God’s grace in Jesus Christ” (p. 212-213).
Feel free to ask more questions if I haven't been clear here.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
I tried to go back and find a few pictures of Elijah that were similar enough to current pictures of Jude so you can see for yourself. Unfortunately I don't have many pictures of Jude awake yet, and I don't think these quite do it justice, but they might give you an idea...
That would be me. It's funny to me that people say Elijah looks just like his daddy. I'm glad--I would love for our boys to look like their handsome dad!--but I just don't see it. Here's what Steve looked like as a baby:
Saturday, November 20, 2010
I have loved Operation Christmas Child ever since I first saw a promotional video for it about 6 or 7 years ago at my church. This is the first year since then that I haven't packed a shoebox--lame, I know, but life feels a little full and overwhelming right now, so I think we'll have to settle for writing a check to cover the shipping costs. This video is a beautiful story of how a shoebox changed one Bosnian woman's life.
Christmas: Thinking About Whose Birthday It Is
Last Christmas left me feeling disenchanted with gift-mania and longing for more meaningful Christmas celebrations...I love the way Ann's family celebrates Jesus' birth. Inspiring, challenging, thought-provoking at the very least...
Got the Morning Blues?
Justin Taylor offers some glorious truths to preach to yourself first thing in the morning when you really don't want to get out of bed and get going. I'm printing this off and hanging it up!
Friday, November 19, 2010
It was almost six years ago that my mentor Diane posed the question to me: "Can you trust God to be faithful now based on His faithfulness throughout your life?" I was in the midst of a very dark, low time, and she wanted me to recount all the times I could think of that God had shown Himself to be faithful and good in my life.
Stubborn and angry and full of unbelief, I finally opened my Bible and saw, in my own handwriting in the margins of the Psalms, clear evidence of His faithfulness during a dry, lonely time five years before that. It blew me away as God met me there in His Word, with Psalms that had spoken to me so powerfully before, and spoke to me powerfully again--as well as with my own scribbled words of confidence in His faithfulness.
A few days later, flipping through the Psalms again, I ran across a familiar favorite, and one line struck me in a new way: "...forget not all his benefits..." (Psalm 103:2). God was writing a theme on my life: Forget not, O my soul.
This is a theme God has been working into my heart for more than five years now--yet I am still so forgetful. How many, many times throughout my pregnancy did I waver in faith, struggle to believe, cry in fear? And yet He lavished grace on me, once again trying to drive the point home: I am faithful. I am sovereign, wise, good and loving. I am working in all things for your good and for My glory. I will never leave you or forsake you. I will provide all that you need. TRUST ME.
So again I marvel at the good gifts He has given me, and again I tell myself: Forget not, O my soul.
[a repost/revision from the archives--originally published April 13, 2005]
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Over the last two years I have really enjoyed getting together with Jamie and her four delightful kiddos--and they are all so sweet to Elijah; he enjoys them, too. I think it's reasonable to say that "Isaiah" (Jamie prefers not to use their real names on a public blog) was Elijah's first real friend.
So it was with sadness that we invited Jamie and the kids over on Monday for our last playdate. Her husband is being transferred across the country, so they're moving in a few weeks. Our time together was bittersweet--sweet, because Jamie got her baby fix and I got to accomplish dishes and laundry while I had someone to hold Jude, and because the kids played so well together and we enjoyed adult conversation. Bitter, because I have no idea if or when we'll ever see them again :(
A few pictures from our day...Jamie and her girls fought over who got to hold Jude, each taking several turns (I loved their excitement over my little guy):
I'm also thankful that we can keep in touch easily in this internet age...and that her family is moving someplace I'd love to visit on a vacation :) Best wishes in your new adventure, Jamie and family...Elijah and I will miss you!
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
When we decided to name our son Jude as a testimony, I wasn't thinking about his birth. But as that time grew closer, and as praying friends expressed their confidence that the birth was going to be a beautiful experience, I began to hope that his very entry into the world would be an occasion for praise—that unlike my “shellshocked and traumatized” description of my feelings immediately after Elijah's birth, my feelings after Jude's birth would be ones of joy and praise.
I prayed that God would remove my fears and enable me to trust Him, to sense His presence as I labored. I prayed that He would get glory, that His grace and goodness would be on display, that He would fill my heart and mouth with His praise. Two weeks before Jude was born, I wrote in my journal:
"Let this be recorded for a generation to come,And He indeed answered those prayers...but that's another long story for another day :)
so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:
that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord,
and in Jerusalem his praise..."
I want the story of Jude's birth to be a lasting testimony, a story of God's faithfulness not merely told now to my friends and family, but told for years to come, so that even those yet unborn would praise Him—that Jude's name would be fulfilled even as he comes into the world.
Lord, let it be said that when I was in labor, You looked down, You condescended to help me--You heard my groans and set me free from all fear. Make it so, Lord, that I and all those present may declare Your name and praise You!
In the meantime, I am thanking God for the praise He has already ordained from me, and I am praying that Jude's name would be not only a testimony to me, but a prophecy for him—that Jude will “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4).
The whole story:
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
When we went in for an ultrasound last June, and discovered that our new baby was a boy, the name “Jude” reverberated in my head the entire way home. It wasn't my favorite boy name, but because of the meaning, I almost couldn't fathom naming our little boy anything else—it felt like the name Jude had been chosen for us. God knew I would need the testimony.
Steve and I talked about it, and we both really liked the idea of his name being so meaningful. So our second son officially became Jude. A few weeks later, in July, I wrote in my journal:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.
Father, my heart hesitates as I read and write these words; I fear the unknowns of this fall. ...I hesitate to echo Habakkuk's prayer. These are words I need and want to declare—yet my faith is so weak.
I don't want my joy to depend on my circumstances. I want to display deep, abiding trust in You. Help me, Lord—enable me to rejoice in You no matter what, to take joy in You who have saved me, who are saving me, and who will save me forever. Lord, receive even the naming of our son Jude as an act of faith—trusting that by Your grace, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Cause me to rejoice in You; enable me to trust You and choose to praise You whatever may come. Be my strength, Lord, so that like Habakkuk, I can have “sure-footed confidence” in You even amid difficult circumstances.
Monday, November 15, 2010
1056. leading us to this broken but beautiful gospel-centered church
1057. their love for and support of us
1058. all the people who not only oohed and aahed over Jude, but asked how I was doing
1059. the sense I had that they really cared, and that if I'd needed to, I could have been completely real about struggling
1060. being able instead to testify to His abundant grace and mercy
1061. being able to sing worship songs with zeal, from the heart
1062. our awesome new cry room, complete with a video feed of the sermon
1063. great conversations with a friend in the cry room after the sermon
1064. the truth and beauty of His Word
1065. the privilege of having it and being able to read it
1066. Christ has regarded my helpless estate and hath shed His own blood for my soul
1067. My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more!
Sunday, November 14, 2010
First, we're introducing Elijah to babywearing...a friend of mine who made me a ring sling also made a little pouch sling for Elijah. So now he can carry stuffed animals like we carry Baby Jude:
Last weekend (and most of this last week, really) the weather here was absolutely gorgeous, so we went to the park twice. Nothing melts my heart like watching Daddy climb all over the playground equipment with Elijah:
And finally, a few nights ago, Steve was sitting on the couch holding Jude. Elijah grabbed one of his stuffed animals and climbed up next to Daddy to snuggle together:
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Women Speak Out About What's Gone Wrong with the United States Birthing System
"Because so many women don't have an image of what a natural, empowered birth looks like, there is a lot of fear surrounding the act of giving birth. Accordingly, the majority of women give their inner authority over to doctors in their birth process. They trust the doctors more than themselves. The problem with this is that many women aren't aware that the majority of her doctor's medical decisions are being made today for monetary and legal reasons, and not necessarily for the good of her and her baby."
Listening to Myself – Words on the Side
My friend Christin relates a poignant story about her three-year-old...definitely saw myself in little Noelle :)
What is Success? Life in the Upside Down Kingdom - Part 2 » A Holy Experience
The second part of Ann's keynote address at the Relevant conference (I linked to part one last week!) was inspiring--it encouraged me to be completely real and honest in writing about Jude's name and birth and the postpartum period. Just one of many amazing quotes:
"The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. She needs her again and again when she becomes uncertain ...This is the holy work of a blog, so don’t every feel shy or ashamed or embarrassed that you blog. Because the body of Christ needs to speak to itself and it needs to speak to the world ...I get discouraged and I become uncertain and I fall down and His word through your words is the connective tissue in the body of Christ and we need each other. Please. Keep. Writing."
A Feast Fit for the King | Christianity Today
"...we in the church have much to answer for ourselves. Here's a question, which I ask myself as well: Why have we ignored food for so long? Why are we not attending more seriously to Paul's injunction to literally "eat or drink … for the glory of God"? Beyond a quick word of thanks before meals, have we seriously considered how our eating and drinking either reveals or suppresses the glory of God? I don't believe we have. Most of us have been living in a kind of self-absorbed somnolence that may be partly rooted in our own lingering dualism that privileges the soul over the body."
You Cannot Bind Their Hearts to Christ « Beauty in Every Place
"Formula-based parenting appeals to us because it usually promises something we desperately want. But we cannot see the full picture, be it good or bad. It is certainly my prayer that God will bind the hearts of my children to Christ; and I will labor and toil to nurture and instruct them in God’s Word. But it is the Spirit of God who transforms them. It’s not earned by my parenting, their behavior, or even my prayers. Just as every other aspect of our life must be Gospel-centered, so must our parenting."
That one led me on a rabbit trail through a few other wonderful posts about parenting and discipline:
Practical Theology for Women: Discipline v. Punishment or Parenting Our Children the Way God Parents His
The Mystery of Discipline - Sally Clarkson
Practical Theology for Women: The Gospel is the Environment for Our Parenting
Friday, November 12, 2010
Moments after I saw two pink lines last winter, already Leah’s words were echoing in my mind: This time I will praise the LORD.
That became my prayer, my resolve, my plea for grace. Throughout my pregnancy, I prayed that God would grant me a completely different experience this time around—that birth would be a positive, healing experience; that He would protect me from postpartum depression, enable me to delight in the new baby.
But I also asked that even if it was really hard again, even if a hundred overwhelming challenges came my way, that He would give me the grace to praise Him, to hold fast to Him, to glorify His name and show His faithfulness.
Adjusting to motherhood after Elijah's birth was incredibly difficult for me. But I was so faithless, so weak and so unwilling to fight. This time I prayed that God would enable me to fight for joy, that He would put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
On February 9, the day I found out I was pregnant, I wrote in my journal:
I’m praying that His perfect, unfailing love will drive out all my fear. I’m praying that He’ll give me grace to trust Him, come what may. He is good, and He does good. I am securely in the palm of His hand, and He ordains only what is best. I grieve to think of my faithlessness, my unbelief, how I have dishonored Him in the past.
May it not be so this time, Lord! Make me faithful. Fill me with trust in You and use me to point people to Christ as the only source of hope.
This time, I will praise You.[part 3]
Thursday, November 11, 2010
He has Tim Keller to thank. It was in May 2009 that I read a transcript of one of Keller's sermons, called “The Girl Nobody Wanted”--a sermon about Leah (audio version available here). Most of you are familiar with the story from Genesis 29: Leah, the unwanted wife of Jacob, begins having sons. And as Keller explains:
Every time she says, "Now my husband will love me." "Now my husband will love me." "Now my husband will love me." And then it says she conceived again, and then she gave birth to a son and she said, "This time I will praise the Lord." Finally, no talk about her husband. What had happened? Through this suffering she stopped turning to her husband, she stopped looking to her children, she stopped looking to anything else and she said I'm going to praise the Lord. And at that moment she got her life back.
...If there's anybody in this building right now that feels like somebody else has ruined my life, look at Leah. Leah gets her life back. She doesn't have to be bitter. She doesn't have to hate. She doesn't have to deceive back. She says, "This time I will praise the Lord." I won't look to anything else to give me what only Jesus Christ can be for me. I will not add anything to Jesus Christ as a requirement for being happy. Do that, and you'll get your life back.
Keller's words struck me deeply that afternoon. I was still very much struggling in motherhood; in fact, only weeks before, I had written my painfully honest blog series about it. I saw myself in Leah; I saw the idolatry of my heart and the call to praise.
Perhaps motherhood was an idol for me; certainly, comfort and ease were (are) towering idols. After reading the sermon, I wrote in my journal on May 16, 2009:
Father, I am starting to realize, after reading Tim Keller's sermon “The Girl Nobody Wanted” on Genesis 29, that perhaps I need to repent of an idolatry I did not realize—the idolatry of motherhood.
How much of my misery is because I put my hope in motherhood? Have I subconsciously thought that becoming a mother would make me valuable, give my life meaning and purpose? And so in Your grace You have torn down those idols incredibly quickly, leaving me disillusioned as I discover that motherhood is nothing like I expected, that I cannot be the mother I vainly believed I would easily be. And instead of bringing me joy and being a delightful road of growing and cherishing and thriving...You have allowed motherhood to be for me a hard road of anguish and sacrifice and disappointment [and failure]—because jealously, You cannot allow me to hope in motherhood, to find joy and identity and meaning and life through being a mother. Those things come only from You.
And so I look at Leah, who [unlike me] had every reason to be absolutely miserable, who surely felt like her life had been ruined, and I see how she got her life back in spite of crushing pain and disappointment.
...I can choose to say with Leah, “This time I will praise the Lord.”
Forgive me, Father, for...adding [so many] things to Jesus Christ as a requirement for being happy. ...I want to live, Lord. Grant me the grace to praise You, to look to and hope in You alone.
Steve and I weren't yet trying to have another baby. I was definitely not ready. But I had the distinct sense that afternoon that we would have another boy—so that we could name him Judah (or rather, Jude—same meaning, but I liked the shortened version better). So that every time I saw my son, every time I called his name, I would be reminded: “This time, I will praise the Lord.”
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I am *longing* to write these days. I feel like I have a lot to say. But as I settle into the new normal around here, it feels like a major accomplishment just to keep my children clean and fed. As I posted on Facebook yesterday, I am back in that season of life when "shower" gets written on the to-do list--and today, unlike yesterday, it did *not* get triumphantly crossed off.
I've been working on a post about how Jude got his name, but it's turning into a multi-part series. I haven't written out his birth story yet. And I've got plenty more ideas for posts. It's not a matter of having writer's block, for once; it's a matter of struggling to carve out the time to sit and think and type.
So for tonight, I'll have to leave you with another non-post like last Friday. It's 8:42, and Jude has a full belly. He hasn't been giving me long stretches at night this week, which means I need to go to bed now so I don't feel like I got hit by a truck when he wakes up again around midnight.
Here's hoping for some time to write tomorrow...
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Outside my window...
dark. Winter is depressing. I don't like how it gets dark so early--especially early here since we're on the very eastern edge of the time zone. At least the weather was gorgeous today! But, it's also time for the annual invasion of box elder bugs. They cover the back of our house, and come in the back door at every opportunity. Harmless, and generally not horrifying to me as far as bugs go--but very annoying.
I am thinking...
about the irony of how when I have lots of time, I have nothing to say, and now that I have lots to write about, it's hard to squeeze in the time.
I am thankful for...
my amazing, amazing husband. Watching Steve as a dad makes me fall in love all over again. And the way he cares for me...this man out-serves just about anyone I know, gladly and without complaint. I'm also endlessly thankful for the level of postpartum help I get, both from our families and from him. He has a few extra vacation days left this year, so he's taking half days here and there to help ease the transition. It was so nice to have him home at noon today and get a wonderful, uninterrupted nap!
From the kitchen...
we're getting meals from women at our church this week and next--what a blessing! We're still eating off the giant pan of chicken pot pie we received yesterday (along with the most evil-looking chocolate peanut butter pie). I did manage to get some raw applesauce made tonight and some apples sliced for dehydrating--I hit up a good sale on organic Galas over the weekend.
I am wearing...
navy sweatpants and a turquoise shirt. Klassy.
I am creating...
milk. A lot of it. Also working on Jude's newborn shoot--I need to attempt to process the pictures I took last Friday, but am procrastinating because I don't really know what I'm doing.
I am going...
to write out Jude's birth story soon.
I am reading...
on my new Kindle! Steve got me a "Birth Day" present--and it's great for reading while I nurse :) My discretionary funds are running low at the moment, but thankfully there are hundreds of public domain books available free for Kindle. Right now I'm about a quarter of the way through the only Charles Dickens book I've ever read (other than excerpts from Great Expectations for freshman English in HS): Bleak House. I'm also enjoying Charles Spurgeon's devotional Beside Still Waters.
I am hoping...
that nursing will stop hurting soon. Right now it makes me want to shoot myself.
I am hearing...
the sounds of Steve's power tools. What's notable is not what I'm creating, but what he's creating. The other day he made this really intricate elephant-shaped jigsaw puzzle for Elijah; just now he came upstairs with a bear he cut out. There is no end to that man's talents!
Around the house...
Elijah is full of energy and dancing all around. Jude is sleeping in his swing and will be waking up soon to eat (ugh). The sink is full of the dishes I should be doing right now instead of blogging :) And I actually managed to do a load of laundry today--so I've got a basket of baby stuff waiting to be folded.
One of my favorite things...
hugging and cuddling with Steve without a giant pregnant belly in the way. We both have a fresh appreciation for being able to get close again!
A few plans for the rest of the week...
I'm not really making "plans" these days. Keeping it low-key. I do need to take the boys to the library tomorrow, as Elijah's books are due, and that will be a good little outing. I'd like to get together with my friend Lydia, but we're still trying to work that out. Otherwise, just settling in to our new normal here at home.
A picture thought I am sharing...
a sneak peek from Jude's newborn shoot:
Monday, November 08, 2010
1046. providing quiet time first thing this morning for me to seek His face and quiet my soul
1047. Steve getting Elijah's breakfast all out and ready before he left for work/before Elijah got up
1048. Elijah's patience (am I actually writing that?!)
1049. a much-awaited phone call from my best friend, timed perfectly: I had just finished nursing Jude and had just put in Mary Poppins for Elijah to finish watching
1050. my new baby carrier, just arrived in the mail today
1051. a phone call from Steve, to check in and see how we're doing
1052. Elijah's desire to be a helper
1053. gobs of food that a friend from church brought for us
1054. keeping me keenly aware of my dependence on Him, my weakness, my desperate need
1055. His power and strength, made perfect in my weakness
Sunday, November 07, 2010
We'll see what life is like on Monday, with the doting grandmothers gone and just Mama to care for both boys...but at this point I am thankful for my laidback not-so-little man and his acceptance of his "little brudder."
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Between our moms being here, our church providing some meals, and having worked my tail off to fill our chest freezer with meals, I am enjoying a nice break from having to cook. But when I get back into my kitchen groove, I want to try this. The picture looks revolting--but let's face it, store-bought Velveeta is revolting. I have to admit that there are a couple of favorite recipes around here that call for it...so I cringe and throw it in, since I'm not a skilled/experienced enough cook to know how to properly substitute real cheese. I've tried, without success. So I'm intrigued by the idea of homemade Velveeta!
Homepreschool and Beyond
Steve and I haven't made any decisions about school--it's still three years off for us, so we have no idea at this point whether we'll homeschool or send Elijah somewhere. But I know there are plenty of things I could be doing (and am not doing) to help Elijah grow and learn before he's ready for school. I haven't looked at this site yet, but a friend of mine linked to it a couple of days ago and I'm hoping to check it out soon.
Blogging in the Upside-Down Kingdom
Ann Voskamp posted part one of the text of her keynote speech from the Relevant blogging conference (as well as an audio link)--as usual, she's eloquent and inspiring. I'm printing the "prayer for writers" to put in my journal!
Introduction: Reading the Bible "Christianly"
A friend of ours is teaching a new series for Sunday school at our church. I downloaded the first lesson and listened during middle-of-the-night feedings this week, and I'm excited about where it's going to go. He's planning to teach, both in theory and in practice, how to see Christ everywhere in the Bible--how to read all of Scripture in light of the gospel, rather than as disconnected morality stories or as sound-bite verses.
Friday, November 05, 2010
As the mother of a newborn, I highly, highly value my sleep--so this brief little check-in is the best I can do today. There's no way I'm staying up to write a thoughtful blog post; I'm going to bed!
Back tomorrow with some links, and planning to put up pictures every Sunday this month :)
Thursday, November 04, 2010
I already feel completely overwhelmed at the idea of taking both of them anywhere by myself--especially anywhere we have to arrive at a specific time.
I've been blessed after the birth of both boys to have amazing postpartum help. My mom comes down immediately and stays for a week, then Steve's mom comes and stays for a week. I'm able to really rest and let my body recover while they cook, clean, take care of laundry, and help care for the kids. I don't take this for granted; I realize not everyone has this kind of help, and I'm beyond thankful.
My mother-in-law flies home on Saturday, and it's easy to feel scared of what life will look like after that. How will I do when I don't get to sleep an extra couple of hours with the baby while someone else gets up with Elijah and gets him breakfast? How will I handle the relentless demands of two children's needs? (And how on earth are my friends who have kids the same age as mine PLUS another in between managing at all?!)
When these thoughts creep up, I have to return to one of the most profound and lasting lessons I gleaned this summer from Ed Welch's books. To prepare for childbirth, I read Running Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of Rest and the related study guide, When I Am Afraid. In them, Welch spends a lot of time on (and keeps coming back to) the story of the Israelites receiving manna in the wilderness, as the foundational story for why we can trust God and not worry about the future. He says:
...the manna he sends for them to eat does more than just feed them. It also teaches them. First, it teaches them to act on the grace God gives today by collecting the manna and enjoying it. Second, it teaches them to trust him for tomorrow. Every night they go to bed with empty cupboards. Every morning they wake up wondering whether the manna will be on the ground. Every morning it is.There's no such thing as imaginary grace! Future circumstances feel overwhelming, even impossible, because you don't yet have the grace to handle them. When God brings them, He'll also bring the grace you need to face them.
...Anxiety and worry are always off in the future. They are scouts on the frontier. They run ahead and spy on the enemy. When they return they tell tales of bloodthirsty giants, an enemy army that extends to the horizon, insurmountable odds, and sure defeat. These spies, you see, have been commissioned to always envision the worst-case scenario.
Your task is to denounce those alarmist spies and instead adopt the story of manna because it is, indeed, your story. Last night manna wasn't on the ground. You wake up, and there it is. It is everything you need for today.
Can you understand why you worry when you think about tomorrow? You worry because you don't have what you need yet. If you imagine tomorrow's misery without tomorrow's manna, of course you are going to worry. Tomorrow's manna isn't on the ground yet. You have manna for today only. In his great wisdom, God doesn't give you tomorrow's manna today. Otherwise you would forget him and trust in yourself.
This is the truth I preach to myself several times a day. When I am tempted to run ahead and fret about what tomorrow will look like, I try to remember to look back instead. God has lavished His grace on me over the last few weeks (not to mention the whole of my life!). I can trust Him to provide the grace I will need tomorrow (or even for the next feeding in a few hours). But He will provide that grace tomorrow, and not a moment before. Today my work is to trust Him, to focus on what is before me and leave the next thing in His loving, merciful hands.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
It started with a sweet friend who posted very honestly on her blog that she was having a hard time and needed prayer. Because she shared that she was struggling, I was able to send her a quick email with some encouragement from the Word that had recently ministered to me--something I never would have thought to do if I hadn't been told that she needed it. And the blessing wasn't just hers. When she responded and told me how much my email had meant to her, *I* felt so blessed to have been an instrument of God's grace in her life.
A few days later, I got an email from another friend who opened up about some of her current struggles. I had NO idea she was dealing with some of the difficult things she mentioned! And it got me thinking: How often do we rob ourselves of the blessing of encouragement, and rob others of the blessing of reaching out, by keeping our struggles to ourselves?
This is a theme our pastor has been emphasizing for quite some time. You are NOT ALONE--yet you are so tempted to isolate yourself and believe the lie that you are the only one who struggles. It can be so hard to admit failure, to confess weak faith, to ask for help and prayer. But isn't it typically so fruitful when we do gather up the courage to be raw and honest and real?
In the weeks leading up to Jude's birth, I shared some very honest prayer requests about my fears and hopes. Because I reached out, I received so much grace in the form of dear friends praying for me and encouraging me. And now those friends can rejoice all the more with me when I share how God has answered their prayers and showered me with His mercies!
The other day, I was talking with a friend about some of this, and she related it to a verse I hadn't thought about: "God...gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). My friend said that I was experiencing the truth of this promise--that as I had humbly shared my fears and struggles, I had received much grace.
I guess that is often what prevents us from being vulnerable--pride, the fear of what others will think of us. It's hard to trust others with the deepest parts of ourselves. But these recent experiences have reminded me that when we refuse to share our hearts, we're robbing ourselves of the abundant grace God is waiting to pour out on us...and we're robbing those around us of the opportunity to be vessels of that grace.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Maybe...but I'm going to give it a shot. I've done it every year since 2006, and I need to redeem last year's failure. Also, I want to win a prize.
My drafts folder is filled with half-baked post ideas, and I need some motivation to write. Plus I figure, with a new baby, I should have plenty of cute pictures to post if nothing else :)
So here's to NaBloPoMo and a more lively blog over the next 30 days!
Monday, November 01, 2010
The gratitude lists are long these days; while I lie on the couch resting, I have plenty of time to pick up colored Sharpie pen and fill blank pages with blessings--too many to recount them all here.
As I settle into a new season of motherhood, and reflect on the first months of Elijah's life, I am continuing to experience much grace. I know that the only way to thrive in these days is by crying out for help, by running to the throne of grace where I find mercy and grace in my time of need. I know that I must "suit up" and preach the gospel to myself rather than succumbing to fears and the flesh and selfish thoughts. And in seeking to do these things, I find myself especially thankful for two means of grace that help me pray and preach:
1044. the aforementioned journal, where blank white spaces challenge me to think of more gifts, offer more gratitude
1045. our iPod, which broadcasts songs and podcasts to fill my mind with truth and peace