Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Unrecognized Graces (Part II)

God's most precious gifts to us often remain unseen.
Misguided by worldly perspectives, we may not readily admire, embrace, and receive them as gifts.

The Church is one of these gifts. Burdened by guilt, plagued with fear, too tired, too busy, and too focused on ourselves, we often fail to recognize how precious the local body of believers banded together to encourage one another to strive after Jesus really is. (To read a post on this, click here.)
Authority is another of these unrecognized gifts that I have come to see the beauty of over the past few months.

Becoming a parent is one of those rare moments in which your whole world changes in one instant.

The first of these life-changing moments that I remember was getting engaged. One moment we were just dating and I was trying to guard my heart and mind by limiting the time I spent on wedding blogs because I knew that when I spent time looking at wedding dresses, candlelit mason jars, and dessert table decorations, before I knew it I are thinking about what I might name my firstborn son or daughter. But then, in another moment, in one exclaimed "Yes!" and the gift of a beautiful diamond ring, I could begin thinking of this man kneeling in front of me as my future husband. And planning my wedding cake and choosing my bridesmaids was now on my list of things to do.

The next life-changing moment happened at the altar, when, with only a paragraph of words, we entered into one of the most sacred covenants, pledging our lives and love to each other. One moment we were two separate persons; the next, we were "one." I remember walking down the aisle, with my hand in my husband's (I loved being able to say that!), getting into the Jeep with him, and screaming, "Ahhhhhhhhhh! We're married!" It was such a wonderful, surreal feeling, knowing we now belonged to each other until death do us part.

And then we became parents. I was very aware of the baby growing inside me with each passing day- from when I couldn't stand to eat broccoli anymore, to when I couldn't see my feet- but the moment the nurse lifted the wiggling little baby girl onto my belly and her searching eyes met mine, the whole world seemed to stop. There she was. And she was ours. God had given us this beautiful baby girl to care for and to guide in His ways. He had entrusted her to us.

The thought of becoming a parent is amazing and overwhelming and joyful and so, so frightening all mixed into one. And God has been teaching me how I can never be a mommy apart from Him. And, through the Seminary Wives class I took on Biblical Parenting, He has showed me a precious part of parenting I had always viewed with sort-of an "I have to because I'm a mom now, but I don't really want to or I don't really understand fully why I need to" attitude. He has been showing me the gift of Authority.

One of the main things I learned from the class was this:

Our aim, and our desire as parents should be to prepare, 
to soften our children's hearts 
for God to work as He so chooses. 

God does not need us, and He can work despite our failures and shortcomings as parents. 
But He has entrusted us with our children, and given them to us. 
And we have the amazing privilege of being a part of His plan and His working in their little lives!

By training our children to submit to our authority in their lives, 
we can help soften their little hearts for submitting to God's authority. 

God has placed us as authorities over our children. And training them to submit to us and to respect us is not only a command, it is a grace for them! 

Thinking of my authority as a mommy in this way has given me a desire to train my children, by God's grace and strength, to submit to authority, not just because it is a command for me to do so, but because it is a gift to them. It has helped to clear away the guilt and "I'm sorry I have to do this" feelings I had felt I would have when disciplining our children in the future and has helped me to see how it is truly for their good

All the authority God has placed in our lives is not in place "just because" or just so things can run more smoothly, but for our good. It is a gift designed to soften our hearts to submit to Him as the ultimate Authority and to draw us more to Himself. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Through Me

written in 2009, from Ezekiel 16:4-13. 

"on the day you were born, your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you. you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. no eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you, but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born.
when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you, 'Live!' I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine," says the Lord God.
"your breasts were formed, your hair grew, but you were naked and bare.
then, I washed you in water. yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil. I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin. I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. and I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. you ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. you were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you," says the Lord God.
Ezekiel 16:4-13

despised, alone, rejected at birth,
naked, blood-stained, covered in earth, 
no water, salt, or swaddling clothes,
no eye pitied; all hearts were closed.

I passed your helpless, struggling form;
you, I loved, and chose to transform.
proclaiming, "live!", an oath I did swear;
with My wings, I clothed you with care.

you became Mine.

your breasts were formed; your hair, it grew long.
naked, empty; something was wrong.
your longing heart still had yet to see:
beauty, love, comes only from Me.

I washed you, and anointed your head.
oil and pastries fine you were fed.
adorned with silk and jewels and a crown,
love, through Me, your beauty's renown!

you were made perfect through My splendor.


written in 2010

She is arrayed in exuberant, delicate foldings of pure white. Her dainty veil tenderly kisses her cheeks and cascades down her back. Perfect pearls and intricate, shimmery embroidering dance upon her gown, creating glimmering rays of light softly emanating from her presence. These shimmers harmonize with the romantic blush that increasingly plays upon her smiling cheeks. As she walks down the aisle, her joyful eyes are ever upon the one who heroically captivated and tenderly holds her heart. He stands at the end of the end of the aisle, his strong form patiently confident and tall. Yet, tears softly glisten in his ever-focused eyes- tears, not of sorrow, but of unfailing sacrificial love. He beholds and anticipates the one his heart chose and pursued- his radiant bride.   
 I too am a bride. I once was abhorred and cast away, naked and bare. I had nothing to offer- nothing on me, nor in me; my hands clasped only filth. Yet, in my destitution and defilement, One compassionately beheld me. He proclaimed to me, “Live!” and gathered my wretched form to his affectionate breast. He cleansed me with water, removing all of my stains. He wrapped me in exquisite clothing of fine linen and silk, glorious garments of glittering snow. He adorned me with magnificent ornaments and lavished upon me countless jewels that glittered brighter than the stars on the black night sky. He made my beauty perfect through the splendor He bestowed upon me! He chose my foul, loathsome form (Ezek. 16:1-14 English Standard Version). Alluring me and whispering tenderly to me, He captivated my heart and betrothed me to Himself in steadfast love and faithfulness (Hos. 2:14, 19-20) He betrothed me to Himself forever, and I became His. I became Christ’s bride.   
 Just as a bride must do with her earthly bridegroom, I must fervently guard my relationship with my heavenly Bridegroom from harmful distractions and spend time in intimate communication with Him so that our blossoming relationship is able to effloresce.   
 Daily, my relationship with my Love is endangered by my tendency to become distracted by the flashy, empty attractions of this world. By allowing my gaze to drift to these lures, I become captured by their glamor and fervently chase after them. Though they may alleviate my thirsty soul for a time, their beauty rapidly proves fading, and their promises, weightless. I am reminded that only my Love is infinitely lovely and able to quench the powerful yearnings of my parched soul. When I focus my eyes on Who He is, my heart is enthralled by His incomprehensible beauty and worth, and I am not persuaded by the vain glimmers of the enticements surrounding me. However, the allurements of the world are not the only thing that my heart lusts after. In my stupidity, I stubbornly turn from the overflowing table of my Bridegroom’s abundant goodness and blessings. I depart from His cascading “river of delights” (Ps. 36:8) and return to my former state. Sitting in the dust, my hands clasping grime, I hold fast to what is abhorred by my Groom. However, He is forgiving! For when I humbly release my prized refuse and run back to Him, His strong arms enfold me once more. Once all distractions, from this present world and my past, are removed, our relationship is able to flourish.  
In order for this to take place, our communication must be mutual. I must pour my heart out to Him and allow Him to speak to me through His Word. When I talk to Him, I need to tell Him how worthy He is of everything I am. I should praise Him for His faithfulness and unfailing love toward me and extol Him because He is transcendent and completely separate from all the earth that encompasses me. I should also recount to Him how undeserving I am of His grace, thanking Him for His abounding goodness and favor and for His wondrous works toward me. I must unfold my innermost heart and reveal to my trustworthy Bridegroom all of my longings, hopes, burdens, cares, and fears; for I know that He cares for me (1 Pet. 5:7) Then, I must still my heart, lay at His feet, and fix my gaze upon His gentle face as I listen to Him speak His Words to me. They are always what I need. Sometimes, they are gentle streams of comfort. Other times, they are stern, piercing reproofs followed by correction, but they are always enveloped in His boundless love. This fellowship between my Bridegroom and me should occur at every moment of the day- as the sun’s rays softly glisten through my window, wave goodnight to me from behind a hill, or play hide-and-seek behind the moon in the middle of the night.   
 As the heart of a hopeful young bride, I never want my love for heavenly Bridegroom to become monotonous or dutiful. I want to long for Him as the weary fawn thirsts after the whispering water brook (Ps. 42:1-2). I want to honestly proclaim with the Psalmist that one day spent in His Presence is better than a thousand spent elsewhere! (Ps. 84:10) I desire to tenderly nourish and cultivate our love so that it blossoms into a beautiful flower that spreads fragrance and beauty to a hopeless world. This gardening will only occur as I fervently guard our love from the pernicious weeds of distraction and provide it with the essential water and sunlight of precious communion.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The eighth and ninth of March

The eighth and ninth of March- each year, as another year has passes, these days will continue to be bold, bright, gleaming reminders of answered prayers.

March 8th, 2013, I found out I was pregnant.
March 9th, 2013, I was in the ER with Matt, and we were told I was having an early miscarriage.

March 8th, 2014, I am holding that precious baby girl miracle in my arms.
March 9th, 2014, We are celebrating her 4 months with us.

We- along with countless friends, family, friends of friends,
and people we'd never even met- prayed for her.
And God answered our prayers.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Never alone

Knowing you are not alone is one of the most precious gifts of marriage.

I first knew the feeling the morning of our second day of marriage, when I awoke and heard his steady breathing as he slept beside me. I knew it when I was brushing my teeth, and heard him come up behind me and reach above me to grab his toothbrush and brush his teeth too. When I found my water had already been poured for dinner. When I hurried out the door into the cold, wintery wind, and smiled because he'd already heated the car for me. When his shoulder was there for me to cry on as the doctors informed us we'd had an early miscarriage. When his hand was there to cling to as we awaited the ultrasound that would show us if our baby was still alive. When he wheeled me out of the emergency room, and I was told to be on bedrest. When the dishes were washed, the laundry was done, and the stack of books in front of me were replenished again and again as I waited for my body to heal. When worry and fear about our baby's health plagued me, and he whispered Scriptures and Truth in my ear. I knew it as I leaned upon his strong arms for contraction after contraction. And when I heard his joy at the first cry of our baby girl.

These past four months, I have come to treasure more and more that feeling of knowing that I am not alone- knowing that my husband is with me. My heart is so encouraged when I feel his hand gently squeeze mine as I sit on the edge of our bed nursing at 3AM. Or when I walk into the kitchen to see the dishes from dinner have already been washed. Or when I wake him at 5 in the morning, crying because I haven't been able to fall back asleep and he holds me and whispers not to be anxious but to rest in God. Or when he walks through the door after a day of working for us and is carrying the most beautiful rose and tella me he doesn't ever want me to forget how much I mean to him and how much he loves me.

The new burdens of becoming a mommy can be overwhelming at times. And, at the same time, tthe joys can be unspeakably amazing. I am so glad I am not alone for either of them. I'm thankful to have someone to hold my hand in the middle of the night and to call into the bathroom to watch our little girl splashing in the bathtub for the first time. I'm so thankful he is with me.

And knowing he is with me is a constant reminder that God is always with me. He sees every daily diaper change, every late night hour of rocking in the nursery, and every second of the nights I can't fall back to sleep after being wakened, and He cares. Matt can hold me when I cry, but the Psalms say thay God catches all my tears in a bottle. Matt can share my smiles and laughs as we watch our baby grow, but God is the very Giver of these good gifts. Matt is with me now on this earth, but God promises to be with me from now through all eternity.

I am not and never will be alone. What a treasure to dwell on.