Grateful.

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While I would like to give an update of our last days and week at some point, today I'm reflecting on how grateful I am for all of the the ways I've seen God working lately.  The short update is that while we are not holding twins in our arms (or looking at them in incubators), we came close to meeting them a little earlier than we were expecting.  

Sometimes when things appear to take a turn for what we consider to be "the worst", what we need isn't for the situation to just go away so we can be in control again, but it is to shift our perspective.  God is completely good, completely sovereign, and completely wise about what and when to give us (what we would consider) difficult life circumstances.  When we lean on Him in those moments and trust in His plans, it doesn't mean our circumstances will turn out the way we expected, but it does mean that we can find peace in our trials.  He might even offer us glimpses of himself, deepening our relationship with Him and growing our faith when we can't see the whole picture.

This week I'm reflecting on God's perfect timing, will, and control in the midst of unexpected circumstances:
  • He gave Brad and I the wisdom we prayed for when we weren't sure whether or not to go to the hospital for my pre-term labor symptoms.  It turned out to be great timing because it was early enough for the doctors to act.
  • He provided excellent health care to us through medications, monitoring, and well-trained nurses and doctors. 
  • He provided trustworthy and perfectly timed childcare for Lewis when we and he needed it.
  • He provided lots nurses that were all veterans of their profession ( (25+ years of experience) who were extremely skilled, caring, and gracious.
  • He provided peace and trust in the outcome of our circumstances when we thought we might be transferred to a hospital in Des Moines.
  • He provided a good friend to come help give Brad an afternoon to go home and relax and give me some rest too.
  • He (in his perfect timing) allowed us to be here on a night when my personal doctor "just so happened" to be on call.  We were able to work directly with the person we've built a trusting relationship throughout the pregnancy.
  • He provided coverage for Brad at work.
  • He has already provided care for myself and Lewis for the coming week through available friends and family members while I'm on bed rest.
  • He answered our prayers to keep these babies in the womb just a little bit longer so they can continue to develop, a prayer that he didn't have to answer "yes" to.
Most of all, I've seen over the last few days that God's ways are higher than our ways.  Sometimes when circumstances don't look the way I think they should, I tend to wonder if God knows what He is doing.  Why go to all the trouble to bring us into the hospital for 2 days when I could have just stayed at home?  Why add those unnecessary complications to the story?  These are thoughts from the perspective of my flesh.  

I won't ever have the answers to the question of "why" but I can trust that God had a good purpose that is more complex and far reaching than I could ever imagine.  During our stay, we had lots of wonderful conversations with our doctor (even completely unrelated to babies), we got to know many nurses who we will hopefully see again soon, we hopefully provided a good witness and breath of fresh air to those coming to our room to interact with us.  God grew our personal faith and trust in Him when we were reminded again that we are not in control, and God's timing for the birth and outcome of this pregnancy is perfect.

Our situation so far seems like an easy one to look back and find things to be grateful for, because it kind of turned out the way we hoped it would in the first place.  It is easy for me to be feeling overwhelmed with joy.  I know that it is much harder for those who experience trials and circumstances where God's answer is not what was hoped for.  I know that we could go home tomorrow, and still have pre-term babies in Des Moines.  I know that nothing is sure.  But I also know that the bible says,

"Count it all JOY, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4, ESV)

Thank you to those of you who have prayed for us during this pregnancy, God IS working in our hearts and lives.  

Slow to Speak


If you are a wife, chances are at some point in your marriage you've felt the bubbling up of emotions over something your husband should or shouldn't have done.  Your expectations weren't met, and suddenly your knowledge of a man's responsibility for biblical leadership becomes as sharp as a tack.  In the heat of the moment, your mind rapidly fires off reasons why your are justified to offer immediate correction, pointing out your husband's missteps.  The hot water inside you continues bubbling, and for a moment you sense that this might not be a productive time to have a conversation.  Instead of being slow to speak, the heat of your passion pushes your right past the quiet warning.  Your tongue lashes words that you would claim are spoken in the name of truth, but instead come out intending to inflict damage.  After you have already spoken, you wait for your words to do their work...to sink in, convict,  rebuke, and make your husband see the error of his ways.  But, something surprising happens... he shuts down or maybe, he even lashes back. What you originally meant as a correction hasn't resolved anything, and you might even be left wondering if things could have gone better had you controlled the bubbling passion, holding off for the right timing.

Now, imagine a different situation where your husband has not met your expectations.  Maybe he really is doing something which requires your rebuke and correction and you know it's ultimately good for him to be confronted about the issue.  You feel the temptation to let your blood boil and to resolve this misstep immediately through the use of your words.  You are convinced that you are justified by so many biblical principles, but instead of speaking, you pause and wait.  You choose to let time pass and to show mercy in the moment, trusting that if God wants you to say something, he will show you when and how to say it.  It feels like moments and days and maybe even months pass as you pray for your husband about this issue and how God might have you approach it.  You listen carefully for opportunities to talk to him about it, and selectively pass when the holy spirit whispers, "not now."  Then one day, in your waiting, the right moment presents itself because God has worked behind the scenes in your husband's heart to receive a hard word of truth.  Now, in the RIGHT timing, God gives you the words, tone of voice, and heart attitude to share what your husband has been prepared to hear... and something miraculous happens.  Your husband doesn't respond in anger or shut down, but instead he acknowledges and considers your words, and even allows himself to be changed by them.  And the best thing is, you know that it was by God's work that he was changed and your faith grows as you give Him the glory.

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I did a lot of the first example until someone challenged me to stop letting myself be controlled by my emotions and start being controlled by the spirit.  This person challenged me to view God as the one who changes my husband and to view myself as simply a tool in that work to be used at His direction (not my own).  They challenged me to consider that my words, unfiltered by God's grace, could cause piercing damage to my husband and my marriage.  With God's help, I made a choice to stop speaking in the heat of the moment and start listening for God's leading.

Yes, this means that I don't always get the last word and I don't always speak the same day an offense is committed.  Sometimes even months go by without any sign of change before I see evidence of God's work and feel led by the holy spirit to share. This type of waiting and faith and giving up control can be difficult.

But by God's help and strength, I can choose to wait for the RIGHT timing instead of my own (and it's had some fairly good results)...
  • I have earned my husbands listening ear.  When I correct, which isn't very often, I know that he actually hears me.
  • I have seen my husband's heart change in big ways as I've offered to be his help and support instead of his mini holy spirit.
  • I have seen my husband connect more with our marriage and our family because he feels safe with me when I don't seek to belittle him or start arguments.
  • My heart has softened towards my husband as I further realize we are on the same team and my job is to love him freely with no contingencies or agenda to make him into a different person.
Just as someone once challenged me to make this massive shift in the way I approach my husband, I want to challenge you.  Next time you feel the bubbles of anger, pride, and justification rise in you...STOP and PRAY.  You can always come back and say something later, but you can never unsay what is spoken in a moment of passion.

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4 Ways to Serve a Mommy-to-Be

I've been completely amazed at the outpouring of love and support from those around us during this unexpected and challenging season of life.  When Brad and I found out we were having twins, we did what we could to prepare, but to a large degree we knew that having these twins would be a lesson in trusting God to meet our practical needs.  I especially felt unsure of how I would make it to the end of this pregnancy with a one year old and a huge belly.  Growing these two babies has been an amazing experience, but it has left me more physically exhausted than I could have ever imagined.  My body is working double overtime to grow two little ones, and most days I'm running an energy deficit.  On one hand, this could be very discouraging after a while, but it has been an amazing opportunity to learn about God's faithfulness and his ability to love us personally.

Our friends and family have allowed themselves to be used by God to support, encourage, help, and provide for our needs.  Here are a few examples of things people have done so far for me during the later part of this pregnancy that I'm confident would be an encouragement to other women in their 3rd trimester (with or without twins on the way)!

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1.  Provide food
  • Bring over a hot and ready meal to take the load off of dinner time
  • Bring over quick breakfast items to lessen the rush in the morning
  • Do a grocery run of some essential items
  • Bring over a frozen meal to be used whenever is convenient
2.  Provide rest
  • Offer to provide childcare so mom-to-be can take a nap or put her feet up
  • Offer to run any errands that might be difficult or physically taxing
  • Come over and help with household duties or chores, giving a chance to get off those feet
  • Encourage spending time in God's word
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3.  Provide fun
  • Plan a coffee date or outing that doesn't require much walking or standing (but lots of social time)
  • Come visit the mom-to-be at her home, bringing a treat and good conversation
  • Plan a play date to occupy and uplift her children (who might be feeling like mommy is a little boring right now)
4.  Provide prayers
  • Pray for the health of the baby(ies) and pregnancy
  • Pray for God to meet specific needs of the family
  • Pray for the mom-to-be to lean on God and have strength during the last weeks
The last thing to remember is that many of us prideful women (myself included) find it hard to accept help, especially from other women who we might perceive as "having it all together".  Some days I don't understand what makes me different from other moms in their 3rd trimester with other kids at home...why do I need so much help when other people seem to be getting by just fine?  It can be easy to compare two things that are in fact different, and expect my pregnancy to look just like everyone else's.  I can get down on myself and really feel guilty for not just working harder or being stronger.  It has also been extremely helpful for my friends and family to almost nag me about resting and accepting support.  They constantly remind me that I am facing higher risks with weightier consequences, and that my body is feeling the pressure of doing double duty, using energy to grow two babies.  But all women in their 3rd trimester probably need to be resting more, enjoying the last bit of calm before months of night waking and constantly caring for a newborn.

Can you think of someone in the later stages of pregnancy who would be blessed by your help?

Encouragement Worth Sharing

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Side note:  I've never called fall my favorite season, this is simply because it precedes winter (and winter feels like the longest season of the year).  But this year, I'm finding myself kind of wishing it would cool down so the leaves would change and I can finally pull out sweaters and slippers.  Maybe I'm tired of my summer maternity clothes, maybe I'm tired of constantly feeling hot and on the verge of sweating, or maybe I'm frustrated because I haven't been able to enjoy walks outside, but this warm weather really needs to break.  Don't remind of this post in February though when I will be eating my words and wishing that I would have savored every hot minute before we were buried in snow. 

Okay...on to some good posts...

Right now, I am really struggling with Lewis during the hour between 4 and 5 p.m. (or whenever daddy gets home) which can feel like a constant string of whining, even after he has taken good nap.  I've tried TV, snacks, new toys, playing outside; all bad tricks and all to no avail.  This post gives some good and practical ideas for making it through this difficult part of the day, which is a common time of struggle for most children.  I particularly liked her idea about adjusting expectations and making a choice to engage in parenting during this hour versus trying to cook a complicated meal or check facebook.  Recently, I sat down next to Lewis while he was playing instead of prepping dinner (because I fixed something simple for dinner) and he hardly whined the whole hour.  Just having my attention helped tremendously!

This blog post really struck a chord with me about being a woman who is mission-minded.  I think the author hit the nail right on the head when they mentioned the reality that, "Sometimes we try so hard to be mission-minded, we neglect our primary mission; our own family."  In this particular season of life, I've had to really scale back "outside" activities in order to continue serving my family well.  Sometimes it can be hard to watch others who seem to be out in the world doing mission and evangelism, but I have to trust in the truth that my most important mission field right now is the little non-christian growing up in my house.

Although we are still several years away from having to decide if we are sending Lewis to public school, private school, home school, or some other alternative, we're already thinking and praying about what to do.  I try to read articles on both sides of the fence, when I run across them, to help as we sort through some of the pros and cons of different types of education.  This recent article by Dr. Albert Mohler had an interesting look at the background of public school and how it has changed dramatically in recent decades.  He also touches on the question of whether or not it's still an option for Evangelical Christians to educate their children through this changing system.  Interesting read!

Finally, I have really been enjoying the blog, Loving My Lot.  Her writing is not only relatable, but it is biblical, relevant, and easy to digest...definitely worth adding to the blog subscription list :-).

I hope at least one of these reads was interesting and helpful for you today!

Breaks from Lewis and True Rest

my busy boy :-) 
I wrote this post a while back, not really knowing the right time to share it...but today, I need to hear this.  It's one of those weary kind of days where I need to be reminded that God is my strength and he will provide grace to get through every moment, even when I feel like I have no energy left.  I hope this thought blesses you today as well...

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As a pregnant mommy, "break time" is something I'm always looking forward to.  Whether it's the simple moments during naps, the long sigh after bedtime, the afternoon walk around Target by myself, or the full night's sleep without a jabbering alarm clock - I don't play favorites.  These breaks can be built-up in my mind as something magical...
"I just need to make it to 10am...then he goes down for a nap!"
"Tuesday.  Tuesday he will be with Grandma and then I can get a break."

Let me tell you, breaks ARE important.  Practically speaking, right now I need a few minutes to just sit and not over-exert my body by picking up a 22 pound weight over and over.  My feet get swollen, and it's nice to put them up.  But recently, I've realized some interesting truths about my breaks that have me putting them into perspective.

Breaks do not equate REST.
Have you ever heard your child waking up from a nap and found yourself completely un-rejuvenated?  You've looked forward to that precious time all day, and yet, you don't feel refreshed when it's over (not to mention, you checked pretty much nothing off of your to-do list).  For me, this feeling gets very discouraging.  I think, "He just slept for 2 hours...why do I not feel jazzed up and ready to go again?  Wasn't this nap time my break?"  That's just it.  Just because I get a break; for hours or even days, it doesn't necessarily mean that I experience REST.  

Rest is something that comes from one person - Jesus.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
Matthew 11:28-29
Jesus fulfilled the requirement of the Sabbath in its literal form by becoming rest for our souls.  When we put our faith and trust in his work of salvation, we don't have to strive anymore.  Our time doesn't have to be spent creating an identity, being a "good" person, or pushing harder to do a better job at life.  Instead, we can just be accepted.  Forgiven.  Loved unconditionally.  When we look to Jesus, spend time with him, and believe his promises, we do feel rest deep in our souls.

When I'm not feeling rested, I need more Jesus...not more breaks.
This cycle for me has been hard to stop.  I get exhausted, so I want a "break" (nap time, free time, me time, etc.).  I take a break and I don't feel any more rested (frustrating).  The me time, extra iced coffees, and time to walk around at Target frankly wasn't that fulfilling after all.  I find myself feeling more deprived.  I need more breaks.  This cycle continues, until I eventually wonder, "why isn't this working?" and I turn back to Jesus...my true rest.  This means repenting.  Confessing that I try so hard to be my own rest.  Confessing that I believe our culture's lies about having more time to myself.  Confessing that I don't come on my knees to him moment by moment, asking for his grace and help to have energy for the day.

I don't want to put my hope in comfort or the amount of breaks I can get during this sometimes exhausting season of life.  Having the opportunity for breaks will come and go, and being a nice, happy, rested wife and mommy with a good attitude can't be contingent upon whether or not I've had enough time to myself.  It isn't the breaks that will sustain me, but the strength that only God can provide as I further lean on him for grace in each moment.  

For each of us, this can look different.  It might mean a quiet hour spent reading the bible, or ten minutes alone in prayer.  It might include solitude or engaging in one of the many means of grace provided to us as believers (such as fellowship, worship, reading, prayer, etc.).  It might mean fasting from something that distracts you from your true rest, Jesus.  It doesn't matter what it looks like, but that it happens.

Moms, wives, women...we need more REST, not more breaks.

Also, this blog post about cultivating a more restful home really has a lot of amazing points which I didn't necessarily touch on here.  It's worth the read!
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